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University of Florida 



M r, E, Rarson Arg npo 

has submitted, 

in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doe-fcor nf Phi T,">qr>p>^y 

Arte and Scleneea 

in the College of 
, a thesis entitled 

The }3e l8 ia ti Roy al Qu t ist i on ; — Cif!w.vagp> wnri Onnm^nf^^ in Popirty and 
Politiea, lC)J^Q,3^QtiQ 

This thesis has been examined by all members of the candidate's special si9>eTvisory committee and has been 
approved rejeeted (delete one). The committee has examined the candidate in accordance with the regulations gov- 
erning the Final Examination and has adjudged his performance satisfactory ->.i.>-.i i>r...iii..y (delete one). Exceptions 
or qualifications are noted as follows: 


)scar Svarllen 



ftn gurt gg i960 

uepanmeutytl eaa ^ - ^ y 

Dean of the College ' /^ 

Dean of the Graduate School 

DIRECTIONS: Two copies of this form are signed by all members of the special supervisory committee and by the Dean 
of the College or his representative, and one copy thus signed is sent to the Dean of the Graduate School. 











January, 1961 




■■•■ ;'.,M.--'" ■- ■■ 

i ..^v'^v?,:*' Copyright by 

Ergasto Ramon Arango 

M '••'.*< . 1 J, 



■■ -, -M 

.V',i; r .::>.,;: 

■ i;'-". ■■i,:-- 



The study which follows is documented not only 
with material found in Belgian libraries but also with 
information gathered during formal interviews and during 
informal conversations. The royal question could not 
have been adequately studied av;ay from Belgium; for most 
every Belgian played some part in the solution of the 
question and still has strong feelings about it. 

The author warmly thanks Dr. Manning Dauer and 
Dr. Alfred Diamant who patiently and kindly guided the 
writing, and thanks, too, the Graduate School of the 
University of Florida whose generosity made the doctoral 
program possible, 

I i\- 



Caroline and Ergasto Arango 
Alfred Diamant 



"■■■-■" Page 









SUMMER OF 1940 63 











. ■ . Table Page 

I 1. The Distribution of Seats after the 

Elections of June, 1949 225 

V< , ^"• ■'■■ 2. The Consultation of March, 1950 235 

■' :•■ 3. "Yes" Vote in Consultation of March, 1950; 

P.S.C. Vote in 1949; Liberal Vote in 
• ;:''',;•: 1949; Combined P.S.C. and Liberal Vote 
; in 1949 236 

r • '< 

4* Actual Votes and Percentage of Total Vote 
Cast for the House of Representatives 
by Each of the Parties in the Elections 
'-' ' of June, 1950, Compared to the Figures 

' . for the Elections of June, 1949 • • • 245 

i''^\: . ' ■ . ■' ■ ■ ■ 

5« Distribution of Seats in the House of L-i 

Representatives after the Elections of 
June, 1950, Compared to the Distribu- 
tion after the Elections of June, 1949 245 

6. Percentage of Total Votes Secured by the 
Various Parties in Each Province in 
the Elections of June, 1950 246 



■^ ■'■■'... , • - '■ -• -'■■'.- ■.■.:■■'■: ... .' ',• ■^. 

On May 10, 1940, the Germans invaded Belgium. 
Fifteen days later, when defeat appeared certain, the 
Belgian government fled into exile so that it might carry 
on the war from France and later from England. Contrary 
to the pleadings and advice of his Ministers, the Belgian 
king, Leopold III, chose to stay in Belgium and share the 
fate of his army and his subjects. Three days later, on 
May 2S, Leopold, acting in his capacity as Commander-in- 
Chief of the armed forces, capitulated to the enemy and 
was taken prisoner. He remained a captive ujitil May, 
1945. The separation of King and Cabinet on May 25, I94O, 
marked the beginning of what the Belgians call the royal 
question which came to an end on August 1, I95O, when 
Leopold III abdicated in favor of his son. Prince Baudouin. 

Essentially the royal question is the final epi- 
sode in a long-developing constitutional dispute over con- 
flicting interpretations of monarchical power under the 
Belgian constitution. The Constitution divides power gen- 
erously between the King and Parliament, yet as Belgian 
political life evolved from I83O \mtil I94O, particularly 
with the growth of political parties and responsible party 
government, power came to lie increasingly in Parliament. 


Belgi\ua*8 first two monarchs, Leopold I and Leopold II, 
resisted this evolution and used their full constitutional 
power. The third king, Albert, vAxo reigned from I909 
until 1934, either because of his personality or because 
he understood the political changes taking place, acqxii- 
esced in the pre-eminence of the legislature. He zniled, 
however, during a period of relative stability and died 
before the events of the second half of the 1930*8 could 

t' * 

» I ■ * . .. 

test his continued forbearance. He was succeeded by his 
son, thirty- three-year-old Leopold III. The mid-1930 »e 
were an inauspicious tine to come to the throne. Emile 
Ouowepts wrote that one could rummage in vain through 
history to find a young constitutional monarch confronted 
with moz*e pressing and anxious problems frcwa the very 
first days of his reign. The world depression and the 
economic policies of France and Germany thz*eatened Belgium 
with financial ruin. The military strength of Nasi 
Germany was growing to frightening proportions while 
Belgium's historic allies, England and France, did nothing 
to stop it. 

In Belgium, the parliamentary process was \inable 
to handle the crisis situations. Fascist parties in both 
Flanders and Wallonia menaced national stability vdiile 
divisions within the major parties hampered the normal 
parliamentary process. Cabinets followed one another with 
dramatic regularity, and King Leopold was forced to act in 


order to maintain governmental continuity. As a conse- 
quence, he was compelled to make decisions which ■.,■....: V 
identified him with specific policies. In 1935, at- 
tempting to rescue Belgium from economic collapse, .:.r. <• 
Leopold called Paul Van Zeeland from outside Parliament 
to head a tripartite national government. Van Zeeland, 
Identified with Leopold, was granted extraordinary power 
in economic affairs. In 1936, after Hitler had marched 
into the Rhineland, it was Leopold who called for a new 
Belgian foreign policy. He made his proposal privately 
at a meeting of the Council of Ministers, but the members 
of the Cabinet requested that the proposal be made public. 
The King agreed, and the Government assumed responsibility, 
but Leopold and neutrality became synonymous. Thus 
Belgians identified their sovereign personally with the 
two most important events of the immediate prewar years, 
a situation which went counter to the present concept of 
the position of a constitutional monarch. More signifi- 
cantly, Leopold identified himself with these policies and 
what he considered to be the "greater good of Belgium." 

What took place during the brief fighting war. 
May 10 to 26, 1940, was the last of the series of event* 

Paul Van Zeeland, prior to entering the government, 
had been a vice-governor of the Bangue Nationale . He was 
considered one of Belgium's great economists and had taught 
at the Catholic University of Louvain. 



which had started in I935 and I936. On May 25, 1940, . 
when his Ministers advised Leopold to leave Belgium and 
accompany them into exile, the King had other ideas re- 
garding what he thought would be best for Belgium. He 
chose to stay behind to share the fate of his troops and 
his people. This decision and the events that resulted 
from it during the occupation make up the royal question, 
a constitutional issue ccaitaining this paradox? before 
the war, the constitution was vague enough to permit a 
variety of discrepant interpretations regarding the limits 
of monarchical power. Convention was eroding the personal 
prerogatives of the sovereign so that constitutionally he 
had authority no longer recognized by current usage. Yet 
events compelled Leopold to act with full L-onstitutional 
power contrary to evolving custom, and this brought into 
the open the discrepancy between what Leopold considered 
to lie withixi his constitutional authority and the 
evolving "rules of the game." The separation on 14ay 25, 
1940, was the final dramatization of this discrepancy. ■' 
After the war, both the Government which had been 
in exile and King Leopold sought from the Belgian people 
vindication of their respective decisions. The Ministers 
believed that they had been right to continue the war from 
beyond the borders of Belgium} the King believed that he 
had been right to surrender his troops in order to prevent 
their annihilation by what appeared to be an invincible 


'»,*>,.* ^"i' ^, " -y-c \'t ■■■--- --'.'-.!..- -m 


enemy. Vindication of these decisions and their conse- 
quences carried with it, however, vindication of a ; «-^ ''■.■ 
particular interpretation of monarchical authority under 
the constitution. Can the King make and execute a de- 
cision contrary to the advice of responsible ministers? 
To answer the question affirmatively would vindicate the 
King. To answer the question negatively would vindicate 
the Government and relegate the King and his successors 
to a position of authority comparable to that of other 
modern constitutional monarchs. The future relationship 
between Belgian sovereigns and their ministers — in fact, 
the future of the constitutional monarchy in Belgium, 
depended upon the outcome of the dispute. 
■ '^-' ' ■ The royal question was more than this, however. 
No such technical constitutional issue could have captured 
and sustained the interest of the people, yet the royal 
question was the most personal and the most violent public 
issue ever to occur in Belgian history because it touched 
the weakest element in Belgian society, its unity. There 
are two ethnic groups within Belgium, the Flemish and the 
Walloon. During the years of the debate over the royal 
question, the Flemish (Flemish-speaking) provinces of the 
Kingdom contained 50.19 per cent of the population 
(4,272,000) v/hile the Walloon (French-speaking) areas had 
34.54 per cent (2,912,000). The Brussels metropolitan 
region (l^agglo meration bruxelloise ) held the remainder 


(1,298,000) containing both Flemings and Walloons. But 
because French is the dominant spoken language of Brussels, 
the region has a predominantly Walloon appearance. In 
recent years the French-speaking elements of the Brussels 
area have grown rapidly as Flemish families moving into 
the "big city" change their daily spoken language to French, 
thereby adding to the number of French-speaking in the 

These groups differ not only in language but also 
in culture and outlook; caie might even say they differ in 
religion. Most Belgians are Catholic, but the Flemings are 
devout, loyal, and conservative, while the Walloons are 
often lukewarm and anticlerical, influenced strongly by the 
intellectual currents coming from Franco. The Flemings and 
the V/alloons exist in the artificial entity called Belgivim, 
a state created by international design in 1615, and they 
react centripetally In relation to national unity. These 
centripetal forces have shaped the country's history and 
have caused serious strain on national cohesion even in 
times of peace; in times of war the forces react even more 
violently. The reaction is violent due primarily to the 
extraordinary attachment of ,»/allonia to France. The pro- 
German and pro-Dutch sympathy of Flanders is much less 
intense in comparison and often appears to be a reaction 
against Walloon attraction to France rather than a deep- 
seated emotion in itself. The Walloon is passionately 



devoted to France and is often prouder of his adopted 
French culture than of hi« Belgian birth. Diiring war- 
time this devotion is magnified, and the average 'v/alloon 
thinks that anyone who is not pro-French is automatically 

The behavior of King Leopold III during the 
German occupation could not be called pro-French or even 
pro-Allied. As a result of his policy, Leopold brought 
down upon himself the animosity and eventually the hatred 
not only of the v/alloons but also of most of the citizens 
of Brussels. Those who would not venture to say that 
Leopold had collaborated were convinced that he had 
believed that the Germans would be victorious and had 
courted their favor, behavior which Leopold's enemies con- 
sidered only slightly less repugnant than collaboration. 
Less biased observers think that King Leopold neither 
collaborated nor believed in a German victory, but he did 
not discount the possibility. If the Germans should be 
victorious Leopold hoped to gain the maximum advantage for 
Belgium, and his behavior during the occupation was 
designed to accommodate himself to this eventuality. One 
can imagine that Leopold reasoned like this: the Belgian 
government fights with the Allies while the King is a 
prisoner of the Germans. He will do nothing to aid the 
aggressor, but he will do nothing to offend him. Irre- 
spective of who is the victor, that victor will have a 

I..' O ^"^ 


Belgian friend, or, in the case of Leopold, if not a 
friend, at least not an avowed enemy. This was the policy 
of attentisme . "wait and see," "wait and profit." 

Whether it was called collaboration, attentisme . 
or what Victor Larock described as "supple accommodation," 
the Walloons and the people of Brussels considered 
Leopold's behavior to be immoral, and after the war they 
sought through political action to repudiate their King. 
At this point, the two elements of the royal question, 
i.e., the constitutional and the political, or what the 
average Belgian would call moral, merged and found their 
spokesman in the Socialist party. The Socialists in 
Belgium have been historically opposed to a strong mon- 
archy. In theory. Socialists are republican, but because 
the monarchy is essential to Belgian national existence, 
the Belgian Socialists have always defended the monarchy, 
while at the same time they have foiight for the reduction 
of monarchical power. Therefore, in the constitutional 
dispute between the King and the Government, the Socialists 
supported the Government against the King, and because the 
Socialists are predominantly Walloon, their political or 
moral opposition to Leopold III strengthened and became a 
part of the constitutional dispute. 

The purpose of this study is to show the monarchy 
as it existed before the royal question (1935-1940); to 
present the events that made up the question itself 


(1940-1944); to describe the battle between the King and 
the government as each sought to win the approval of the 
people (1945-1947); to reveal the solution of the royal 
question (1949-1950); and finally to speculate on the 
nature of the monarchy after 1950, on the significance of 
the ten-year affair on the future relationship between 
Belgian sovereigns and their governments, and on the ' 
relevance of the Belgian experience for an understanding 
of the role of a constitutional monarch in modern 
democratic society. > ' . -i-. . -. - , 




The Nature of the Belgian Monarchy ' t 

It has been said that in Belgium the monarchy is 
as necessary as bread. It is unfortunate that a modern 
democracy, such as Belgium, should find itself dependent 
upon a single institution. This dependence makes national 
life precarious and seems to indicate a flaw in the 
composition of the body politic. By contrast, in England, 
as closely as one identified the Crown with the nation, it 
would not be fanciful to assxime that Britain would continue 
to exist without her sovereign. The same would be true of 
Holland and the Scandinavian countries. This is so be- 
cause the monarchy is today an adornment without which 
national life would be more complicated. In whose absence 
readjustment would have to be made, but whose demise would 
not occasion the collapse of the national state. 

Yet, even though not essential to national ex- 
istence, the British monarchy has survived and flourished. 
Ernest Barker has said that the secret lies In the 
monarchy's willingness to change and in its ability to 
offer stability amid this change: 


Br>~ ' ' ■ ■ " T'.''' 


The continuity of our monarchy Inspires us wllii 
a sense of the continuity of our national life 
through a long and storied past. . . . But it is 
far, very far, from being a merely conservative 
institution. It does not prevent change. On the 
contrary, it has helped and fostered change, and 
',' it has changed itself in the process. This is 

the cause of its long survival. It has survived 
because it has changed and because it has moved 
with the movement of time. It has survived be- 
cause our kings, for the last 250 years. . . 
have been wise enough to forget past pretentions, 
to learn new lessons, to change their positions 
with changing time, and to join with the subjects 
in bringing about change in other institutions.^ 

In Belgium, this was the lesson that Albert I learned but 
did not teach to his son, Leopold III. The latter* s lack 
of flexibility was in large part responsible for the 
royal question. 

There is yet another factor which has contributed 
to the success of the British monarchy, a factor more 
fundamental than the personal willingness of individual 
monarchs to change with the times. The absence of this 
factor in Belgium accounts most significantly for the 
difficulties suffered by its monarchy. The British 
monarch, like the Dutch and the three Scandinavian 
monarchs, is the embodiment of historical continuity and 
national self -identification, but he functions in this 
capacity only because there already exists a tradition . 
common to each of his subjects and because the people. 

Ernest Barker, Essays on Government (Oxford: 
At the Clarendon Press, 1951), pp. 2-3. 



of which he is the reflection, are whole and able to be 
mirrored in a single, undistorted image. In short, the 
monarch is the result, not the cause, of consensus and 
homogeneity, and consequently is not essential to their 
continuance. This was not always true. Western European 
monarchies existed historically where these two factors were 
missing, but those monarchies were powerful institutions 


'i I ■ ■ i ' * • ■ " 

with wide discretion and far-reaching influence. It was the 
function of the monarch personally to maintain that unity 
which would be nonexistent without him. As monarchies 
evolved, however, and the power of the sovereign was cir- 
cumscribed, monarchical institutions continued to flourish 
only in those countries which were or became homogeneous 
and unified — socially, politically, religiously, and 
psychologically. The sovereign then lost his active func- 
tion as a unifier and assumed the passive role as symbol 
of an established unity, a symbol whose stability is in 
direct proportion to its dispensability. 

In Belgium, the monarchy is indispensable to 
national unity, a maxim xvhich commands the faith of 
Catholic, Liberal, and Socialist. It is the king who 
stands above the provincial conflicts of Wallonia and 
Flanders, and it is through him alone that the Fleming and 
the Walloon identifies himself as Belgian. But the Crown 
violates thereby the two postulates upon which it is 
claimed a viable constitutional monarchy rests, consensus 



and homogeneity. It violates them because the Belgian 
monarchy is not truly constitutional (as is the British 
after which it was patterned but with which it had little 
in common except nomenclature). It is a hybrid designed 
to reconcile two concepts of monarchy each of which 
answers a peculiar Belgian need: it is a constitutional 
monarchy whose sovereign is granted power disproportionate 
to that of a constitutional monarch in order that he 
accomplish an authoritative function, the maintenance of 
national unity. This hybrid creation functions smoothly 
so long as the elements of national division in which the 
king is forced to find the coimnon denominator remain 
quiescent. If the divisive elements do become active, 
the monarchy continues to operate effectively only so 
long as the king's power is maintained. 
/vV A"*, It should be observed that all monarchies have 
suffered periods of change as a result of which the power 
of the sovereign was reduced, but for the most part those 
periods occurred before the development of the system of 
constitutional monarchy and were steps leading to its 
establishment. Once the system is entrenched^ little 
significant change takes place in the power of the 
monarch. In other words, in a constitutional monarchy the 
sovereign occupies an evolved not an evolving position. 

One finds the most characteristic evidence of this 
in Great Britain. From the beginning of the modern 


■'"1 ■" "■ *■ 


monarchy, which may be said to date from the first Tudor 
monarch in 14^7, the history of the British monarchy might 
be considered as an evolution from personal royal pre- 
rogative to what is described today, and has been so 
described since the reign of George IV, as "the Crown 
in council"; or, in other words, an evolution from the 
time when kings ruled through the agency of ministers to 
that time when ministers began to govern through the 
instrumentality of the Crown. This change took centuries 
to come about. The conflict reached a climax after the 
Stuarts came to the throne in 1603. They claimed the 
right to rule as divine right monarchs, but this claim 
was challenged in a revolution which came about in 1642. 
While the first attempt to limit royal power produced 
the Commonwealth, parliamentary institutions were not 
easily established. The Stuarts were restored, only to be 
again overthrown. The final solution took power from one, 
the king, and distributed it among many, the ministers. 

This distribution was codified with the passage of 
the Bill of Rights in 16^9 and the Act of Settlement in 
1701. Beginning with the reign of William and Mary 
(16S9-1694), whom Parliament invited to reign, the pace of 
the restriction of royal power was increased. It was 
Anne (1702-11714) who learned that sovereigns must rule 
with the favor of one or the other of the two great 
political parties, and she was the last British ruler to 


veto an act of Parliament. She was also the last monarch 
to attend a meeting of the Cabinet because by the end of 
her reign the Cabinet had ceased being the personal 
adjunct of the monarch and had become the spokesman of 
the dominant political power in Parliament. The pressure 
of parliamentary majorities upon the Crown* s choice of 
ministers had become irresistible by the time the 
Hanoverians arrived, and the situation was aided im- 
measurably by the inability of George I to speak English. 
This inability forced him to rely upon his ministers in 
order to rule, and this reliance set a precedent hence- 
forth impossible to ignore or undo. 

■^ By the beginning of the reign of George I, royal 
prerogative had already been brought into legal bounds. 
The only authority which remained to be checked was that 
which involved the King's discretionary power, above all, 
the right to appoint end retain his own personal ministers ( 
Considering the distribution of power between Parliament 
And King as it evolved during the 1800* s, at the end of 
the reign of George IV in 1630, the monarch no longer had 
this discretionary power. Thus by the time Victoria came 
to the throne in I837, the constitutional monarchical 
system had evolved to what it is today, and the extent of 
the political power of the Crown was no longer an issue. 
True enough, Victoria in her later years meddled a great 
deal, and her ministers listened to her with the courtesy 


that age, experience, a measure of wisdom, and affection 

are able to command. But she never carried the day on 

any major political issue, and she reigned in strict 

compliance with Bagehot*s observation that constitutional 

monarchs may warn, advise, and encourage but do nothing 

more: •;;■,; ■■■..■.'„• i,.. ,' , •; ' '•' >,• 

Broadly speaking since the death of Queen Victoria 
. • . royal intervention has been used only to advocate 
. V ' the unity of the nation, at times v/hen party and 

group warfare have threatened to cause violent dis- 
sention, and to promote '"national"' and imperial 
• ' ' interests in international affairs. All depends 

'. upon personality and talent but the hereditary, 
1: .. symbolic and. . . social status of the Crown 
; ; V enable it to exercise a unifying influence in 
',.:; cabinet counsel. It is not a power behind the 
cabinet but bj; and with the cabinet, and, of 
course, never against its determined will. 2 

,. In Belgium, the monarchy underwent a belated 

evolution (one coming after the establishment of the 

constitutional monarchical system) complicated by the 

duality of its function. As the lower classes became 

socially and politically articulate, their demands became 

increasingly more stubborn, and their intransigence 

threatened to disrupt the political process; this was 

particularly true between 1920 and 1940, At the same time, 

these classes demanded a larger share in this process. As 

they entered Parliament it was logical that this share 

Herbert Finer, The Theory and Practice of Modern 

Government (New York: Henry Holt & Co., The Dial Press, 

1^^497) :, ,_ ,.,, . ...,,....,,. 


would take the form of increased parliamentary authority. 
In the reapportionment of a predetermined whole, in this 
case the entirety of governmental power set forth in the 
Constitution, an increase in one share results in an 
automatic decrease in another. An increase in the power 
of the popularly elected parliament would therefore indi- 
cate a decrease in that of the monarchical executive . 
After the First V/orld War, the Socialists took the in- 
itiative in pressing for this redistribution, not throu^ 
constitutional amendment but by political attrition 
utilizing the party and the workings of the cabinet system. 
Belgian Socialists have always supported the monarchy (the 
reality of Belgian political existence demands this), yet 
theoretically Socialists are republicans. Therefore, th* 
closer the monarchical system approaches the republican 
in function, the easier it is for the Socialists to 
reconcile theory with practice. But the Socialists failed 
to understand the dual nature of the Belgian monarchy; 
that is to say, that one could not weaken the executive 
powers of the monarch without weakening his capacity to 
serve as the source of national vuiity. . . •, — 
Elements of Division in Belgium ;'^ '....■ .• 

Although Belgium came into existence as an inde- 
pendent nation in I83I, the Belgian provinces which • 
formed the nation had belonged to the dukes of Burgundy 
from the reign of Philip the Bold to that of Charles the 


Bold, i.e., from 13^4 until 1477. After the abdication 
of Charles V as Holy Roman Emperor, the area was ruled 
first by Spain, next by Austria, then by France, and 
. finally between 1815 and 1030 by Holland. Throughout 
these centuries the two major ethnic groups, i.e., the 
Flemings and the v\^alloons, maintained their identity, and 
at the time of the revolution against Holland in I83O 
these groups were still separate. The Walloons trace ! 
their ancestry to the original Belgic tribes of Celtic 
origin, and the Flemings to the Franks who later settled 
the same general area but who were prevented by the forests 
of Brabant and Flanders, and by the Roman soldiers, from 
penetrating into what would be today Walloon territory. 
This separation has been maintained in part even to the 
present. -; 

The revolution against Holland in I83O and the 
establishment of the Belgian state in I83I had been 
brought about by the combined efforts of Catholics and 
Liberals who buried their differences long enough to 
create a nation and see it through the difficult years of 
infancy.^ From 1815 to I83O the Catholics had suffered 

For a detailed account of this period and of 

Belgian history in general, see Frans van Kalken, 

ffistoire de Belgjq ue des Orlgines a IQII. (Bruxelles: 

Office de Publicite, 1944); and Henri Pirenne, 

Hxstoire de Belp^i.gup^. (Bruxellss: H. Lamertin. . -■ ■ ' 

6 vols., 1909-1926.) ; ■ , 



what they considered the Intolerable educational policies 
of the Dutch king, Willem I, who wished to establish 
state control over all religious activity including edu- 
cation. The Liberals, on the other hand, had suffered 
what they considered intolerable regulations regarding 
civil liberties, particularly freedom of the press. The 
unwillingness of the Dutch to make concessions provoked 
the Catholics and Liberals to create the Union for the 
peaceful redressing of their grievances.^ Holland's 
continued failure to respond changed the Union into a ' 
revolutionary organization. This Catholic-Liberal alliance 
was successful for approximately fifteen years after the 
revolution in I63O but began to break apart over the 
problem of state support for Catholic schools; it finally 
collapsed in I846. From that date until 1884 governments 
alternated between Catholic and Liberal until the 
Catholics came to power in I884 and governed without 
interruption until the First World War. 

This split between Liberals and Catholics, though 
a significant division in Belgian society, was a division 
along one dimension only. The ruling class, whether 

Unionism was the name given to the cooperation 
of Liberals and Catholics from the years immediately 
preceding the Revolution until 1845 . 

C*thollc or Liberal, remained aocially And economically 
unified and ahared a conaon outlook. 

During the 1660* « a new group eaaa Into being«-the 
Socialieta. Beoauae of votlnij qualification! the great 
■ajority of the lower claeaea wa« diefranchiaed, thua con- 
finiac Saoialieta to nonpolitical activity. But their 
daaanda began to increase in volime and their voice waa 
heard through the trade uniona and workingiBea*a aaaocia- 
tioaa, c ©opera tivea, and mutual eocietlea. Even before the 
riae of the Socialieta, however, the Catholic lower claeeea 
had begun to voice their diaeontent. Conferenoea were held 
at Kalinea in 1864 and 1667 and in Liage in XM6 which 
reaulted in reluctant approval by the Catholic oligarchy of 
aocial and econonie, but not political, conceeeiona to tha 
naeeea* Scwavar, theae conceaaiona were minlnal because 
the philosophic dispute batwaan conservative and |>r«KP*aaaive 
Catholica reaained unreaolv^d until I89I. 

After the proHaOgation in I89I of Re rum Sovarun^. the 
charter of Catholic workera which sanctioned progressiva 
social and economic theory, the Catholica in powar began to 
aove alowly toward the aocial and political deaocratisation 
of Belgium. The electoral law of nprtl Id, 1693, the firat 
since the adoption of the Cwistitution in I830, established 
wile suffrage. Each nan over twenty-five years old was 
given the vote, but a aarried man paying a '"^IfU fiiiiiim property 
tax, a widower with a child, a buaineaa nan, a nan living 

■'. **i . '** ^-a.- 1 

fPV'-;- ; ■' .-^ .' y ■ .. 7^-'-: ■^■■^fF'. 


on his invested capital, or a raan with a university ; '; 
diploioa received one or two additional ballots. As an 
outgrowth of the liberalization of the franchise the last 
decade of the nineteenth century saw the beginnings of 
social legislation, but change continued at a gradual 
pace. The new electoral law continued to discriminate in 
favor of the raan of means and stable position so that the 
Socialists and the lower-class Catholics remained politi- 
cally weak. On the eve of the First v/orld V/ar the 
political balance of power was more or less as it had been 
since the lS80»s. Nevertheless, new social divisions 
became apparent. The socioeconomic split between upper 
and lower classes (always existent but now beginning to 
widen) had been added to the religious division among the 
upper classes, a division vdiich had been compounded by the 
philosophic differences among Catholics themselves. And 
among the lower classes, too, religious differences in- 
creased as Catholic workingmen abandoned their church for 
socialism. f'- •■• '.. ■ . 

After the First World War universal manhood 
suffrage was established which gave the vote to all the 


lower classes. As a result of the first elections held 

under the broadened franchise, the Liberal party was 
eclipsed by the Socialist as the second major party, and 
the Catholic party was forced to reorganize in order to 
allow the lower classes a share in the party* s organi- 
zation and management. The prewar economic and social 
divisions were now solidified politically. 

Parallels for these social and political cleavages 
may be found throughout Western Europe. In particular the 
divisions resembled those of France where the religious, 
socioeconomic, and political issues formed a grid of 
interacting forces. They were in contrast, however, to 
those of England, where major changes had come about one 
by one and had allowed time for national adjustment 
between the alterations in society. The Reformation 
settled the religious issue comfortably before the question 
of regime demanded an answer, and this in turn was settled 
before the economic fractures resulting from the industrial 

■ ' "^This change in the franchise did not come about 
through legislative action but as the result of a promise 
made by King Albert (with ministerial approval) in his 
address from the throne on November 22, 1919 » in. which he 
commented that it would be unjust to allow the profiteers 
of the war to continue to enjoy the privilege of plural 
voting while those who had fought in the trenches could 
cast only a single ballot. 

For a thorough discussion of these divisions in 
France see David Thompson. Democracy in France (New York. 
191+9); and in particular Philip Williams, Politics in 
Postwar France (London: Longmans. Green and Co. 1954) • 



revolution had to be mended. In France, on the other • 
hand, the first two issues, i.e., the religious and that 
of regime, erupted with the revolution in 1789 and were 
still unsettled when the country split economically be- 
cause of industrialization. For this reason, the economic 
Left and Right in France were not necessarily congruent 
with the classic Left and Right of the religious vocabulary, 
and until recently the question of regime could still make 
and break politicians. . . . ' )• • . 

The situation in Belgium was analagous to that in 
France but not as complex. The question of regime has not 
divided the Belgians in the same manner as it has the 
French. The Belgian constitutional monarchy grew out of 
a revolution which found the Catholic Right and the <'] 
Liberal Left fighting on the same side. As in France, the 
religious issue was embodied in the combustible question 
scolaire . but the socioeconomic issues in Belgium did not 
result in the same political fragmentation so character- 
istic of France. The Liberals, conservative economically 
but politically Left, i.e., anticlerical, had their 
counterpart in the French Radicals, but the Catholic Right 
in Belgivim differed from the Catholic Right in France. 
In France, the Catholic Right was conservative politically 
as well as economically and therefore afforded no voice 
for the radical Catholic working classes. In Belgium, ■ 
both elements were accommodated, admittedly with strain 


and imperfectly, in the Catholic party. After the ■■■■'■ 
promulgation of Rervua Liovarum in 1^91 the Catholic Right 
began to make concessions to the left-wing in the party 
because the conservative Catholics feared concessions less 
than the creation of a labor party which would ujiite 
Socialists and radical Catholics. Perhaps the most con- 
spicuous difference between France and Belgium was the 
langiiage split, a geographic, cultural, and linguistic •'" 
fissure which cut across all the other divisions in ^ ' . i; 
Belgian society. -'..,. 

- ' ' During the I920»s the Flemish-Walloon antipathy 
was rekindled. Throughout the nineteenth century the - 
Flemings had remained second-class citizens within their 
own country. The free use of both Flemish and French had 
been guaranteed by the constitution, but a reaction against 
former Dutch rule and especially against the linguistic 
policies of willem I resulted in French becoming the 
official language.' The civil service, the army, the bar, 
education, the Court, the higher clergy, the aristocracy 
became French-oriented. Even the Flemish nobility and 
upper bourgeoisie spoke French exclusively, so that with- 
in Flanders itself those who would have formed the 
nucleus of a provincial culture abandoned their linguistic 


t '*';/ 'Flemish is a dialect of Dutch. The well-educated 

Fleming speaks pure Dutch, however. 


heritage. Throughout Belgium a change in social statue 
was geared to a knowledge of French and the cultivation 
of a French »»esprit»'; to be identified with things Flemish 
was a mark of cultural inferiority. But among Flemish 
intellectuals and among the minor Flemish clergy a 
reaction set in against this inferiority during the last 
quarter of the nineteenth century. On August 16, 1873 a 
law was passed which required criminal trials in Flanders 
to be conducted in Flemish. In I898 the De Vriendt- ' 
Coremans law granted Flemish equal status with French. 
This law required official government publications to be 
written in both languages and required both languages to 
appear on stamps, currency, public buildings, and early in 
the 1900* s other laws were passed which regulated the use 
of both languages in Parliament, in the civil service, in 
^^*!:,-A-^ the courts, and in secondary education. 

Beginning with the 1920 ♦s the Flemings, taking 
inspiration from the same reasoning which had condemned 
the undemocratic electoral laws, demanded full equality 
in all other aspects of national life. The law of 
July 31, 1921, compelled cabinet ministers to exchange 
communications with provincial authorities in the language 

<*, - t«; , 

■ . In the army where French was the official language, 
a story made the rounds about a Flemish peasant drafted 
into the service who was later court martialed and 
sentenced to death without ever fully understanding the 
nature of his crime. His accusers, his defenders, and his 
judge spoke only French. 


of the region. In 1932 laws were passed which required 
the use of both languages in all ministries. An edu- ■ - 
cation law stipulated that in primary schools the parent 
no longer had the right to choose the language of ■ :■ 
instruction, thereby delivering a serious blow to the •• 
snob appeal of French. Moedertaal-Voertaal (mother tongue- 
instruction tongue) was replaced by Landstaal-Voertaal 
(regional tongue-instruction tongue). Another law required 
all defendants to be tried and judged in their mother 
tongue; the anny was made bilingual, and a Flemish military 
school was created for the training of Flemish officers. 
But the most important step toward cultural equality was 
the creation of an all-Flemish university by converting 
to Flemish the French-speaking state university at Ghent. ^ 
Education could now be obtained exclusively in Flemish 
from primary through professional school. At long last 
the Flemings felt they were free of the seduction of 
French culture, at least officially. ', . . :•»■' 

It has been necessary to dwell at length on this 
cultural-social-linguistic estrangement because it gives 
depth to the division between Flanders and Wallonia over 
the Leopold question. The Flemings were still pn the 

: I Q 

Following this, many courses at the private 
universities of Louvain and Brussels were offered in 
Flemish, particularly at Louvain where today the majority 
of classes in all faculties is offered in both languages. 


defensive at the time of the royal question. As often 
happens with »»rainority" groups, the reaction against the 
former "oppressors" came not during the years of dis- •, 
crimination but during the first years of newly-won - . : . . 
equality. Unfortunately Leopold III became identified as 
the Flemish king by the Walloons who, by the time of the 
royal question, had begun to fear the encroachment of the 
Flemish language and culture. Since it is the Flemings 
who voluntarily learn French and not, in general, the 
Walloons who learn Flemish, the laws which require all 
government personnel to be bilingual were working to the 
advantage of the Flemings. The French-speaking Belgians 
feared a flamandisation of Belgian life. 

The sensitivity of the French-speaking Belgians ' 
regarding their inherited culture can be fully understood 
only by living among the Belgians. There exists a contempt 
among the Walloons for their Flemish brothers that can . 
best be demonstrated by recalling French contempt for non- 
French culture and then multiplying this contempt several- 
fold. The French at least are secure in their culture; 
the Walloons never relax their vigilance. It is important 
to know this about the Leopold affair: if the Catholic 
Flemings had succeeded in returning Leopold III to his 
throne, it would have been the first time in Belgian 
history that Flanders had imposed its will upon Wallonia 




and Brussels. Given the recent cultural, social, and 

linguistic renaissance of Flanders, this political • 

phenomenon might have been more than Wallonia could have 


King Leopold III and his Relabionshio to the Monarchy 

The first section of this chapter has attempted to 
show why a monarchy is needed in Belgium and the type of 
monarchy that was created to meet these needs, in par-: 
ticular the need for national unity. Section two gave a 
brief account of the divisions in Belgian society for 
which the sovereign was called upon to act as a unifier. 
This last section will attempt to show the status of the 
Belgian monarchy at the time of Leopold III. Then it will 
examine his role against the backgrotmd of domestic 
political developments from I935 until I940. 

The power of the king is set forth in the 

Constitution in articles 26, 27, and 29, and the enximer- 

ation of these powers appears in articles 60 through 78. 

Of these, those most pertinent to this study are the ; 

following J '4 

Article 26~ - The Legislative power is exercised 
collectively by the King, the House of Representa- 
' ' '. ; tives, and the Senate. 


In the houses of Parliament there are representa- 
tives from Flanders and .Vallonia. The capital is con- 
sidered a unit apart, 1* agglomeration bruxelloiae . and 
elects either French-speaking or Flemish-speaking 



Article- P7 — Initlahivp belongs to each of the 
three branches of legislative power. 

Article 29~»To the King belongs the executive power 
as It Is regulated by the Constitution. 

Article 63.-The person of the King is inviolable | 
his ministers are responsible. 

Article 6L — No act of the King can have effect 

ur-lees it is countersigned by a minister, 'v\diich 
minister, by his signing, becomes responsible. 

Article 6^ — The King appoints and dismisses hie 

i . 

1 ;- 

/irbiclc 66 — The King commands the forces on land 
and sea, declares war, makes treaties of peace, 
alliance, and coiamerce. He informs the Chambers 
as soon as the interest and safety of the State 
perrait, presenting to them pertinent communica- 
tions. ... 

Article 69 — The King sanctions and promulgates the 
laws . 

Article 71 — The Kinr has the right to dissolve the 
Charabers, either simultaneously or separately* . . • 

Article 78 — The King can adjourn the Chambers. . . • 

Article 80 — The King comes of age at eighteen 
years inclusive. He takes possession of the 
throne only after having solemnly sworn before the 
Charabers sitting in joint session the following 

"I swear to observe the Constitution and the 
laws of the Belgian people, to maintain national 
independence, end the integrity of the territory." 

Article 82— If the King finds it in^ossible to 
reign, his ministers, after having established 
this Impossibility, immediately convoke the 
chambers <i ... 

Article 8"} — The Regency can be conferred only upon 
one person. 

The Constitution grants the monarch extensive 
power. In theory he is able to refuse to approve 


y ', '• ■ ' ' ' ' ; ■----■■■ -^: 1. ■ ■ 

, '■ ' •/■ , '■■•'' ■■ ■*,-■' 


^®S^slatiort, to appoint and dismiss his personal ministers, 
to adjourn Parliament, or to dissolve it either in whole 
or in part. He is commander oif the armed forces and 
. .V responsible for the maintenance of the nation's inde- 

P^^^^rice and its territorial integrity. His power would 
^e almost total if it were not for Articles 63 and 64. 
Yet, even considering these articles, the king occupies a 
position of great authority, far in excess of the 
nineteenth century British model. The British monarch, 
according to Bagehot, has only three rights: the right to 
.. be consulted, the right to encourage, and the right to 
. , warn. The first two Belgian monarchs, Leopold I and 
v.. .• Leopold II, did not hesitate to use their constitutional 
powers even though a gradual evolution was already taking 

place in the conception of authority under Articles 65, 

71, and 72. The evolution was delayed, however, for 

. several reasons. The first was the personaiity of ' 

Leopold II who reigned from 1^64 until 1910 and saw him- 

;v„ ■ self as a king in the grand manner. Even Belgians say, 

and they despise him still today, that he was born out of 

■ i;.:h 

The cabinet is responsible to both houses of 
Parliament, -,. 


The best biographies of the first two Leopolds 
have been written by Count Louis de Lichtervelde. 
Leopold ler (Bruxelles! Librairie Albert Dewit, 1929); 
Leopold II (Bruxellefl! Editions Universitaires, 1926), 



his time; they liken him in spirit to Louis XIV. 
Second, the conservative Catholics who governed un- 
interruptedly from l$Qk until I9I4 were not philosophically 
opposed to a strong monarch. Third, the Socialists who 
rejected a strong; monarchy did not become a political 
power until after I92O. 

It was during the reign of King Albert, I9IO-I934, 
that the position of the monarch was noticeably altered. 
Albert discontinued several practices by which Belgian 
sovereigns had historically identified themselves publicly 
with policy. The New Year«s reception and address at the 
palace, the political banquets, the personal speeches 
delivered on important public occasions were abandoned so 
that the people lost "political" contact with their 
sovereign. He became the beloved symbol of national unity, 
visible yet aloof, a living legend which had started to 
grow during the war and which Albert chose never to mar. 
The people became accustomed to an apparently passive 
king. He was the first Belgian monarch to rule in the 
manner described and accepted as constitutional by modern 


The Belgians have never forgiven Leopold II for 
having forced the Congo on them. V/hether rightly or 
wrongly, they have always considered it a drain rather 
than a source of profit. But what the author thinks the 
Belgians have really never forgiven Leopold II in regard 
to the Congo is the fact that he was in Paris visiting his 
mistress on the day the transfer took place, dramatizing 
once again the aphorism he coined to describe his people 
and his land: petit gens , petit pays . 

theorists. ^ Events during the second half of his reign 
were of a nature peaceful enough not to demand his active 
and overt participation. Albert died in 1932+ only months 
before Belgiiun entered into a period of crisis v^ich did 
not end until 1950, the year of Leopold* s abdication. 

It is impossible to say whether Albert would have 
met the crises which began in 1935 any differently than 
did his son. We do not know if Albert reigned as he did 
because of disposition alone or because events were aus- 
picious. We do know that when his successor was forced by 
circumstances to act as the Constitution allowed, he was 
denounced as an autocrat and repudiated by his people. We 
cannot deny that Leopold III acted as he did largely be- 
cause of his personality. To him the power of the monarch 
should be as it appeared in the Constitution: strong and 
positive. Leopold was unrealistic in his condemnation of 
the course of political evolution and the workings of 
party government, yet we cannot ignore the contribution of 
events which nourished his bias. 

In 1935 the failure of the Catholic-Liberal 
government under Theunis to cope with the economic crisis 
compelled Leopold to call Paul Van Zeeland from outside 


For an excellent discussion of this manner seet 

Walter Bagehot, The English Constitution (New York: 

D. Appleton & Co., 1384), Chapter IV. 



Parliament to become Prime Minister, ^^ -pj^g extent of 
Van Zeeland's success and the gratitude which Belgians 
felt toward him were demonstrated in April, 1937, when he 
became the candidate supported by the Catholic, Liberal, 
Socialist, and Communist parties in a special election in 
Brussels. In Itoy, 1936, the Rexist party, a fascist 
organization under the leadership of Leon Degrelle, won 
twenty-one parliamentary seats in its first national 
election. By early I937, however, the attitude of the . 
Belgians toward the Rexist party had begun to sour, due 
primarily to an anti-Rexlst campaign organized and 
sustained by the Government. In April, 1937, as a test of 
strength, Degrelle himself chose to run for a Brussels 
parliamentary seat. The four major parties asked Van 
Zeeland to campaign against him. The Prime Minister's . 
triumph surpassed expectation, yet in October of the same 
year he was compelled to resign because of a scandal in 
t^e Banque N atlonale . a scandal in which it is conceded 
that he had played an innocent part. His enemies, 
primarily the Rexists and their parliamentary ally, the 
National Flemish Party, used this Incident to force him 
out of politics. This repudiation of a public servant who 
had come to the nation's rescue only two years before gave 


See Carl-Henrik Hojer, Le Regime parlementaire 

beige de l9l6-lQ2tO (Stockholm! Almqvlst &• Wiksells 

Bokryckerl AB, I946). This is the single best account of 
parliamentary history for the prewar period. 

, .;c....:... .: i ■;■■ ■ 

a sharp blow to Leopold's already waning faith in ''. 
parliamentary procedure. The events which took place 
during the following two years further darkened his view 
and led him increasingly to equate governmental stability 
with the strength of his own position. " '■ ' 

From October 28 until November 30, 1937, Leopold 
labored to find a prime minister acceptable to Parliament 
where the use of exclusives^ ^ was leading to total govern- 
mental paralysis. First, Leopold called two Socialists 
successively to form a cabinet. At this time, the 
Socialists were the largest party, although lacking a 
majority. Emile Vandervelde, the "grand old man" of 
Belgian Socialism refused to try; Henri de Man, the presi- 
dent of the Socialist party, failed because the Liberals 
feared his economic policies which actually differed very 
little from Van Zeeland»s. Leopold then asked two 
Catholics successively, Cyrille Van Overbergh, who begged 
off because of health, and Hubert Pierlot v/ho was unable 
to overcome the opposition of the Socialists. Next, 
Paul-Henri Spaak, a Socialist, was sximmoned by the King, 
but the Catholics turned him down because the Socialists 

An exclusive was the means whereby a party 
refused to consider a particular man for a particular 
ministry. It was primarily a retaliatory measure. As 
each of the three major parties increased its list of 
exclusives, the f miction of government came to a halt. 
No one would agree with anyone else. 

■■*■ /v 

had turned down Pierlot. Leopold was forced to call a ., 
meeting of the leaders of the three major parties. After 
long consultation, a Liberal candidate was agreed upon, 
Paul-Emil Janson. This compromise Prime Minister lasted 
until May 12, 193S, when he was forced to resign because 
he found himself without a cabinet. One by one four of 
his Catholic ministers left the Cabinet because of a 
split in Catholic ranks over the remedies to be taken to 

solve the economic problems which had begun in September 


and October, 1937. In addition, one other Catholic left 

because of illness and another died. The failure of th« 
coalition occurred without the Cabinet being either 
repudiated by Parliament or dismissed by the King. ,; 
Leopold then turned to Spaak to form a government. 
The latter* s skill and Parliament's reluctance to repeat 
the cat and mouse politics which had left Belgium without 
a government for thirty days four months previously 
enabled him to create a viable government; but it lasted 
only until February, 1939* The new crisis had begun in 
January when the Government appointed Dr. Maertens, a 
Fleming, to the Flemish Academy of Medicine. Maertens 
had been a collaborator during the First World War, had • 


During this period of parliamentary confusion. 

Hitler had moved into Austria (March 13, 1938), and 

France had devalued the franc, once again threatening 

Belgium's economic stability. 


been condemned to death, but was pardoned in 1920. There 
is no more delicate issue in Belgium than inclvisme . the 
term applied to the activity of pro-German Belgians , • 
during the two world wars. The Walloons claim that the 
Flemings have a monopoly on treason, while the Fleminga 
counter with the proverb of the mote and the beam and ",; 
protest that collaboration laws discriminate against them. 
The Flemings, therefore, interpreted the Maertens ap- v 
pointment as a partial vindication of their claims. The 
Walloons, on the other hand, used it to rene^/ their anti- 
Flemish charges. Spaak sought to defend his appointment 
by stating that he never would have appointed the doctor 
had he had any reason to doubt his loyalty. This defense 
notwithstanding, Spaak paid for his indiscretion by • / • 
being forced to resign. . . 

Once again Leopold was compelled to enter the 
political arena in order to find a prime minister. On ■: 
February 23, Hubert Pier lot, a Catholic, formed a govern- 
ment which collapsed four days later because of the 
Maertens affair. On March 6 Leopold dissolved Parliament. 
Elections were held on April 2. Elsewhere in Europe, 
between late February and early April, 1939, while Belgivim 
indulged in internal petty bickering, Slovakia had 
proclaimed her independence from Czechoslovakia, and on 
March 12+, the German armies had moved into Prague and 
installed themselves in Bohemia-Moravia. On March 22, 

fy-^-- ■ - --^-- ■ - ■'_ '■-■., ^ - ■,^ - -.-,-.'- -.—- ^- ,. _^^. .^ 


Germany acquired Memel. . . ' • . •.:•• < ::■ 

■;■■.. On February 2, at a meeting of the Council of 
Ministers, King Leopold took the Government to task for 
the condition of Belgian political life: . . • ,■ 

Postwar circumstances and events have modified ; 
our political parties by weakening their unity. 
Their fragmentation has had serious conse- . '' 
quences; the very principles of parliamentary ■ 
government have been threatened. The majority ,;t-.i 
system has been upset by the forced collabo- 

', ration of several parties to form a govern- ,.■;- 

ment and by the suppression of a normal and 
necessary opposition. ,; /,,:•; 

Having become a miniature of Parliament, 
where all political nuances of the ma iority must 
be represented and proportioned, the ministeries 
are becoming more and more ephemeral and difficult 
to forai. 

The growing influence of political parties .. -. 
is being substituted for constitutional power. 
Ministers become the agents of their party; . ;• . „ , 
governments break up and resign without being 
turned out by Parliament.-'-" 

Leopold commented further, pointing out that ministers 
once appointed are "agents of the executive pov/er" and 
not party representatives. He then raised his voice ... ,, 
against the growing practice of the government of . .-■.;- 
submitting decrees, appointments, and enabling legisla- 
tion for his signature after they had already been made 
public or leaked to the press. He stated: .■». = ;: 

• 16 

Contrib ution a l*Etude He la Question royale 
(Bruxelles: Groupement national beige en collaboration 
avec la Centrale balge de Docvimentation, n.d.), p. 79. 
This will be cited henceforth as the Contribution. 



Article 64 of the Constitution stipulates 
that no act of the king can take effect until 
countersigned by a minister. That stipulation 
guarantees that no one shall ever uncover the king. 
More and more, certain practices are being under- 
taken which are diametrically opposed to that 
principle. . . . Those practices no longer permit 
the Chief of State to fulfill his constitutional 
role; he is no longer covered by his ministers; 
it is he, on the contrary who covers them. 

; I can no longer permit the Government to 
demand my urgent signature for important decrees 

■ without allowing me the time to study them, to ' • • 
reflect upon them and to formulate an opinion 

■' concerning them. Those who drew up the Consti- '" 

tution certainly did not wish that the role of 
'■- the Head of State should be reduced to that of the •■ 
servile legislator of decisions taken without him 
by members of his government. 19 

On the day Leopold signed the order of dissolution, 

March 6, 1939, he wrote a letter to Hubert Pierlot, the 

Prime Minister, in which he reiterated his criticism of 

party politics but denied the allegation that he wanted 

to impose his own will on the Governments 

If the principles of our national charter are 
thus forgotten, the Head of State is no longer 
able to play the role which falls to him and, 
highly improperly, the Crown is implicated when it 
should be solely the ministers who are responsible 
before the Houses of Parliament for the acts 
carrying the signature of the king. As for wishing 
to superimpose upon the political and legal re- 
sponsibility of the king himself, that is a false 
' conception which will only confuse public opinion. 
Those who on certain occasions echo malicious op • 
simply tendentious statements risk, without perhaps 
suspecting it, committing an injustice regarding 
the only citizen in the kingdom to v^om are for- 
bidden the means given every man to defend his 
opinions and his acts.^^ 


Ibid . . p. 80. 

^^ Ibid .. p. 85. 


The elections resulted in a return to partial 

stability resting upon the three major parties. The 

Rexists now numbered only four; the Communists, nine; and 

the National Flemish, fifteen. Yet the three major 

parties still found it impossible to agree upon a prim© 

minister. Once again Leopold was forced to speak? 

Constitutional monarchy is based upon the 
principle of a rigorous separation of power. It 
supposes alongside a Parliament which legislates 
and controls, an executive which governs. The ' 
executive power belongs to the king (Article 29 
of the Constitution) who appoints and dismisses 
his ministers (Article 65) who alone are 
' responsible before Parliament. 

Now as the executive power has been weakened 
the role of the state has not ceased growing. Thus, 
by a paradoxical contradiction, the more the state 
is obliged to act, the less it is capable of doing 
so. , , , 

The first necessary condition, that upon which 
depends, I do not hesitate to affirm, the very 
fate of our regime, is the restoration, in all its 
independence and in all its capacity of action, of 
a truly responsible executive power — that is to 
say, formed by men who are able to assure the 
governing of the country throughout an entire 
legislative period, without finding themselves 
hindered in their action by the orders from 
parties, by decisions of political groups and sub- 
groups or by electoral preoccupation. 

Of all the reforms that must be realized, the 
most important is that of the mentality of the men 
in power, the ministers. V/ithout this reform, 
which demands no new legislation, the rest are 
vain and impossi ble.'^-'- 

On April 17, 1939, the Catholics and Liberals 
formed a coalition government, the Socialists going into 


Ibid . . p. 86. 


opposition. On September 5, following the outbreak of war 
in Poland, Leopold took steps which led to the formation 
of a tripartite cabinet which governed until war camo to 
Belgium in May, 1940, but even then not without a mishap. 
On April 25, 19^0, sixteen days before the German invasion, 
the Government offered its resignation to the King. The 
cause of the crisis? The refusal of a handful of Liberal 
members of Parliament to approve the public school budget 
because of the operation of certain language laws. With- 
out even losing parliamentary support, Pierlot offered the 
Cabinet »s resignation to Leopold who refused it J 

At the moment when the army stands vigilant ' ,- 
guard at our frontiers and when the international 
. situation makes it imperative for all Belgians 
to draw more closely together in union, it is 
certainly not the time for a ministerial crisis '' 
involving questions of internal politics. 

I would go counter to the superior interest 
of the country in accepting the resignation of 
the Government following a recent vote in the Senate 
confirming that our foreign policy meets with the 
approval of almost the entire nation. ^^ 

"I would go counter to the superior interests of 

the country" — these were indeed prophetic words. Exactly 

one month from che date he wrote to Pierlot, Leopold cut 

relations with his Government and within another three days 


Ibid., p. 115. The author has let the King speak 
at length in order to show in the latter «s own words his 
ideas and feelings. The extensiveness of quotation does 
not necessarily indicate endorsement on the author* s part. 


surrendered hie army and himself to the Germans, guided 
in his actions by the same philosophy which prompted him 
to refuse the resignation and which had shaped his actions 
since 1935: his personal notion of the greater good of 
Belgiiun. > .-.■'■.■, v 

Leopold* s Philosophy of Kingshio 

This last secticai has attempted to show how • -^■ 
Leopold sought to justify his decisions and his authority 
in terms of the nation* s domestic welfare. The next 
chapter will discuss his role in the shaping of Belgian 
foreign policy and indicate how Leopold sought to equate 
his decisions and his authority with Belgivim»s inter- 
national welfare as well. .;^ •' 

But before doing so, it might be well to analyze 
what Leopold conceived to be the true function of the 
monarchy; for it is there that one must search for the 
rationale that motivated and governed his personal inter- 
ference In Belgium* s domestic and international affairs. 
Leopold never publicly developed this rationale, but ■' .■ 
Louis Wodon, the King's chef de cabinet from 1934 until- 
1940, on various occasions expressed his opinion regarding 
what he considered to be the true function of the 
monarchy. It should not strain credulity to assume that 
men who have been intimately associated for many years 
should share common opinions, particularly when one of the 

V A- 

men is a king and the other his servant. ^-^ It is 1 

legitimate to assume that the peculiar theories of Wodon '^ 
reflected the thoughts of Leopold himself concerning the 
monarch and his relation to the state. 

Wodon distinguished between the function of the 
monarch as executive and that as head of state. He 
based this distinction on the oath taken by Belgian kings 
upon accession to the throne: "I swear to observe the 
Constitution and the laws of the Belgian people, to main- 
tain national independence and the integrity of the 
territory." Wodon reasoned that the oath implied a 
position over and above the Constitution, a position which 
could be understood by reading the docvtment as a whole. ■] 

That which in reality establishes and 
consecrates the royal pre-eminence is the title 
of Head of State which belongs to the king and in 
which are concentrated and synthesized the 
allocation of duties which fall to him over and 
beyond the legislative and executive. These 
result from a combination of constitutional texts 
intelligently understood, of the spirit of the 
whole which flows from it and finally of the * 



The word "servant" is eminently valid, for the 
chef de cabinet is the personal choice of the king, not 
subject to ministerial approval. 

This distinction, a standard one made by authors 
on constitutional monarchy (see Herbert Finer, The Theory 
and Practice of Modern Government ) has a meaning unique to 
Wodon. He does not see the monarch as the Head of State 
impersonating the state on gala occasions as do other 
authors, including Finer. Wodon sees the Head of State as 
a position embodying the state and speaking for it on a 
higher plane than the constitutional or parliamentary. 

• • ■ ' ■■ ai^ 

^ -^Hi 


father, to the head of a family: 

• - 25 A 

-^Louis Wodon. ^"Sur le role du Roi comme Chef de 

I'Etat dans les cas de dafaillances constitutionnelles. " 

Bulletin de l^Academle Rovale de Belgloue . 1941, pp. 211- 


Louis Wodon. "Du recours pour excee de pouvoir 
devant la Constitution beige," Bulletin de l*Academie 
Royal de Belgiaue . December 5, 1936, p. 542. 

( ■■ • --•IS 




traditional unwritten rules which form a very 
notable part of our public law. . . . Every 
constitution supposes essential elements which are 
anterior and superior to it. Such is the case of 
the existence of the state and its independence. 
The latter implies the former. These would be rm! 

sustained in vain by a strict and literal in- 
terpretation of certain texts scrupulously i 
interpreted; it is reasonable that it would lead 
to conclusions and results which would go counter 
to that independence and that existence. 

If the oath alludes to objections other than 

•■^ ; the Constitution and the laws, it is exactly be- 
, cause these objectives are not revealed by the 

,;i;-.. texts of the charter which presupposes them and 

which go beyond that document. From this it ■ 

follows that it is only by condemnable sophistry J 

that one would be able to ixnderstand these texts '] 

in a sense destructive to the elements at the '\ 

base of the Constitution itself. It should be / d 

,;./, noted that the oath is a personal act of the king, ' '| 

and there is no question of lainisterial counter- j 

signing. 25 , i 

. ' , - ' -'i 

Wodon makes this further ccaament comparing the king to a ,v ^c^ii 



Regarding the moral mission of the king it is 
permissible to point to a certain analogy between • 
his role and that of a father, or more generally, 
of parents in a family. The family is, of course, 
a legal institution as is the state. But what 

would a family be where everything was limited '-^^f^l 

among those who compose it to simply legal 
relationships? In a family when one considers 
only legal relationships one comes very close to 
a breakdown in the moral ties founded on reciprocal 
affection without which a family would be like any 
other fragile association. ^^ , . 



,i ') 

It is not difficult to grasp Leopold's opinions 
regarding the monarchy. He xinder stood its purpose; he ^ 
understood its indispensability to national unity. It is 
difficult, however, to accept his outdated philosophy, one 
which for all its good intention contained the seeds of 
disastrous consequences. One cannot read V/odon without 
the shock of realization that he wrote not for the seven- 
teenth but for the twentieth century. Leopold seemed to 
have dismissed an unavoidable reality— the gradual 
evolution that had taken place in the concept of monarchi- 
cal power. This evolution had been delayed in Belgium 
because of the several factors which were discussed above! 
However, by the 1930 «s these delaying factors had been 
removed and the evolution could continue, this time more 
rapidly. Yet, the very factors that allowed the evolution 
to move forward released completely the divisive elements 
which only a strong monarchy could keep in check. King 
Leopold's behavior before, during, and after the war can 
be understood only by keeping in mind this paradox. 



The policy of "independence-neutrality" has been 
identified by the opponents of King Leopold as his 
personal policy imposed by him on an unwilling Government. 
During the royal affair this opinion was given v;ide 
publicity and was used to strengthen the case against the 
King. It is the purpose of the first half of this chapter 
to show that the policy was the natural consequence of 
the interplay of two phenomena: the first, the failure' 
of collective security and of international agreements 
(i.e., the failure of the League of Nations and of the 
Locarno Pact) to assure Belgium* s safety; the second, the 
internal divisions peculiar to Belgium. The policy, 
though introduced by Leopold and identified with him, was 
accepted by the Government and remained the policy of 
each succeeding government until war came to Belgiiim in 
May, 1940. The second half of the chapter will attempt 
to docvunent this fact. 

The Collapse of Collective Sen uritv and International 


The workings of European politics which had forced 
a policy of neutrality upon Belgium from I83O until I9I4 

45 • '• 




compelled her after the First World War to find guarantees 
for her safety in collective security and international 
alliance. The bases of this security were the League of 
Nations and the Locarno Pact.^ The obligations assumed 
by Belgium under the League and Locarno were out of pro- 
portion to her size and strength, but they were supportable 
so long as the conditions established by the Versailles 
Treaty remained stable. They would have dangerous conse- 
quences in the event that the status quo wer^ altered. 
By the mid-l930»s one of the bases for Belgian 
security had collapsed. The collective protection ;' ' . 
afforded by the League of Nations had been a dead letter 
since the Sino-Japanese dispute in I93I, and events in 
Europe and Africa since that time marked the final dis- 
integration of the organization ts power and authority. In 
January, 1933, Hitler became Chancellor and in the follow- 
ing October took Germany out of the League and out of the 
Disarmament Conference. On March 16, I935, Germany 
repudiated the military, naval, and air clauses of the 
Treaty of Versailles and announced that conscription would 

wh^.h f, ^? JP^.^f-'-fJ'^ ^^"^ signed a treaty with France 
Tvin^ ii^% ^^^ details of military cooperation in the 
event of fresh aggression on the part of Germany. The 
treaty for all practical purposes had been absorbed into 
lQ?Q'^''rj encompassing Locarno Pact; however, until March 6. 
J??^'-, ! "^^l before the German reoccupatioA of the 
Rhineland, the Franco-Belgian treaty was a binding obliga- 

llZ "^V"" ^h^J^^tions and so might be considered f ?hird 
base of security. 



be reintroduced. At the same time Hitler began to build 
a military air force. Belgirun watched uneasily as the 
armed strength of Germany increased across an all too 
narrow Rhineland, yet, though the League could no longer 
be relied upon to maintain European order, the Locarno 
Pact made this zone inviolable and Belgium felt relatively 

On March 7, 1936, Germany reoccupied the 
Rhineland. The Locarno powers failed to act. Shortly 
afterward Prime Minister Van Zeeland went to London to 
meet with the representatives of France, Italy, and Great 
Britain and ask them what they intended to do in order to 
keep their word and to protect Belgium while protecting 
themselves, and with themselves the whole civilized world.^ 
Eden made it clear that British opinion would never 
sanction military action whose purpose it was to expel 
Germans from the Rhineland, their historic soil. On this 
question Flandin represented a divided government and a 
nation ill-prepared to go to war. Italy would not call 
Germany to task only six months following the beginning of 
her own Ethiopian campaign. As a result. Van Zeeland was 
forced to return to Belgium and inform his nation that the 


The Franco- Belgian pact was dissolved by France 
on March 6, 1939. 

'^Emile Cammaerts. The Prisoner at Laeken. Fact 
and Legend . (London; The Cresset Press, 1941), p. 96. 


great powers would do nothing for the time being but that 
negotiations would be entered into whose results would be 
binding upon Belgivun. He had agreed at London to follo-^ 
the initiative of Great Britain and France in opening v 
negotiations with Germany for the creation of a new Rhine 
pace and had promised Belgian military aid in the event of 
further German hostility. , .. ;•;;-." 

In the meantime Belgium lay exposed and committed 
beyond her strength—committed by the military agree- 
ments made at London and by Locarno which still bound her 
to France, Great Britain, and Italy, but exposed because 
her geographic position was no longer protected by German 
participation in Locarno. All that remained was the word 
of Britain and France to renegotiate with Germany and the 
pledge of Britain alone made on April 1 that she would 
guarantee Belgian territorial integrity, sources of little 
comfort to Belgium in the light of what had recently 
happened along the Rhine. ,...,, 

Belgium had not allowed this situation to find her 
totally unprepared militarily. Already in the early 
1930 's the Belgian government had seen the direction in 
which European politics was moving. From 1932, Albert 
Deveze, the Liberal Minister of Defense in the de 
Broqueville Cabinet,^ had taken steps to improve the 

The de Broqueville Cabinet was a Catholic- 
Liberal coalition. 

nation»s military position. He had mechanized the 
artillery and the cavalry, introduced modern weapons, and 
in I932f, created frontier .guard units, including the 
Chasseurs Ardennais . motorcycle cavalry. But his policy 
of conscription had met insurmountable opposition. He 
had wanted to lengthen the period of service in order that 
the army receive better training, but the Catholic party 
was opposed and unwilling to make concessions. Its 
opposition was not based upon moral ground; it was a 
purely political issue. The strength of the Catholic 
party lay in Flanders. The Flemings have been historically 
opposed to all things French^ and had resented the treaties 
which bound Belgium to France, particularly the Franco- 
Belgian treaty of 1920, following whose stipulations 
Belgian and French troops hac Tiarched together into the 
Ruhr in 1923 . Flanders was less opposed to Locarno be- • 
cause this treaty parcelled out responsibility more 
broadly, but the Flemish population had never been happy 
with any of the agreements to which France was a partner. 
Thus the proposal to change the conscription laws met 
Flemish resistance so long as there remained the possi- 
bility that Belgian soldiers should fi^t for the benefit 
of France. Flanders could do nothing to alter the 

This was in large part a reaction against that 
condition of inferiority spoken of in Chapter I. 


fait acconpll of Locarno, but it was determined to 
obstruct anj^ policy which v/ould have as its possible' • ■ 
result further nilltary cooperation with France. 

In November, 1935, the Belgian Army General Staff, 
als-rmed by German rearmament and convinced that Britain 
and France did not take these developments eeriouely, ' 
laid before King Leopold a program for national defense, 
a program which received hie complete approval as .■ 
Commander-^in-Chief of the armed forces. The program was 
next presented to Parliament, but, once again, because of 
the provisions for conscription, the Catholic party refused 
to approve it. To impress upon Parliament the seriousness 
of the situation, the Government suggested that a Mixed 
Military Commission be created to study Belgian defense 
needs. The Cozmnission came into being by royal decree on 
March 25, (two weeks after the Rhineland reoccupation) and 
met thirty-seven times. vVhile there v/as difference of 
opinion as to application, there was unanimity on general 
", principles, and the Commission called for immediate 

action on the purchase of materiel, anti-aircraft defense, 
fortifications, and conscription. The Commission made it 
clear that Belgium was not totally unprepared militarily, 
but her strength was inadequate in the event that the 
nation would find it necessary to rely exclusively upon 
its own resources. 

By late summer of I936 this likelihood had become 


. ,-51 

an actuality. On March 9 Italy had annexed Ethiopia; on 
July k the League of Nations admitted that sanctions had 
failed and discontinued them; on July 16 civil war broke 
out in Spain, and on July 24 Germany extended the draft to 
two years. Still France and Britain continued to drift, 
and Belgium, their reluctant partner, witnessed an out- 
break of the historic national fear: that Belgian blood 
would fill Belgian Foil for causes which had little to do 
with Belgium. It was imperative, therefore, that the 
Government adopt the program suggested by the Commission. 
While the Government realized that, in the event of war, 
the strength of the Belgian army would probably have •,;■'• 
little influence upon the direction in which that war 
would move, it realized, too, that weakness toward a • 
potential enemy was an encouragement to his aggression. 
But the adoption of this program presented a dilemma. The 
program called for an increase in the period of con- 
scription, yet the Flemings remained intractable, even in 
the face of national emergency, and refused to vote funds 
for military expansion so long as the international 
commitments under Locarno were outstanding. The Commission 
had observed in its report that public opinion in Flanders, 
the workers as well as the bourgeoisie and the intel- 
lectuals, is hostile to any policy which would be based on 
that of France. 

Contribution , p. 40. 




The Government had to choose: either to maintain the re- 
lationship with France and Britain and gamble on an :■. • 
eventual settlement of the Rhineland dispute, thus re- 
establishing Belgian security through international agree- 
ment; or to repudiate Locarno, creating her own defense 
behind the walls of non-involvement. The possibility of 
hedging the contingency and rearming at home while allowing 
France and Britain to pursue negotiations abroad was 
precluded by Flemish intransigence. ;:..../; 
The Policy of Independence-Neutrality . ' • . .(r: ." 
v«;^J-; The solution lay in a new foreign policy. Already 
in April, Paul-Henri Spaak, the Socialist Foreign Minister, 
had suggested this possibility to Parliament. "Belgian 
security cannot be achieved except by an immense military 
effort under a policy of independence, the only solution 
able to realize a perfect cohesion between Flemings and 
Walloons." On July 20, at a banquet for the Foreign 
Press Corps, Spaak elaborated upon the reasons for a change 
in policy. The reality of European politics, he said, 
compelled him to forget completely his preferences for one 
or another political, economic, or social system. V/hat he 
wanted was only one thing: "an exclusively and wholly \ 

Belgian foreign policy."^ Belgivm could no longer afford ^ 

Ibid . . p. 40, 

Ibid . . p. h,\. 



the luxury of preferences, nor could she be expected to 
fulfill international obligations which were now, through 
no fault of her own, beyond her capacity of support: "A 
people can only reasonably consent to war when its vital 
Interests are at stake, its independence, its territorial 
integrity, the defense of its liberties."^ 

Spaak did not reject Belgium* s participation in the 
League or Locarno, however. He was compelled to limit his 
comments to observations about the inadequacies of both 
organizations without being able to present a policy which 
would be a substitute for either, as Foreign Minister he 
could make no public statement which would compromise 
Belgium internationally, but there was another reason which 
prompted his reticence. Within Belgium a second source of 
opposition had arisen against the military policy proposed 
by the Commission and supported by the Government. While 
the Flemish Catholics were opposed to military expansion 
unless Belgium's international commitments were dissolved 
(particularly Locarno), the internationalists in the 
Socialist party, on the other hand, were opposed to • 
military expansion unless Belgium maintained her inter- 
national obligations, particularly toward the League. On 
September 26, 1936, the Congress of the Parti Ouvrier Beige 
(the Socialist party) issued the following resolution: 

^Ibld. , p. 41. 

"VV, J^^.T 




. . Deliberating about foreign policy, the Congress 
; declares that it has never been and that it will 

. ";. never be a question of Belgium returning to :• 
neutrality. . . that its policy is and must be 
exclusive of all military alliance and within the 
framework of the League of Nations, a policy of 
complete independence without political. ■.■■ ■ .• .> 
military or economic restriction. . . .^^ 

With this latest turn of events the Government's 
efforts reached an impasse. The two most powerful 
political units in Belgium were willing to sacrifice 
national security for such slogans as "hatred for France" 
and "internationalism." 

On October 16 the King called a meeting of the 

Council of Ministers with the intention of dramatizing the 

\ seriousness of Belgium's international position and of 

prompting the Government into action. Leopold listed the 

reasons why steps had to be taken: the rearmament of 

Germany, Italy, and Russia; the transformation in the ways 

of waging war, particularly the developments in aviation; 

the reoccupation of the Rhineland; and the breakdown in 

the workings of international security. He then presented 

a brief resume of the report of the Mixed Military 

Commission and deplored the failure of the Government to 

act on its recommendations. He continued: 

Our military policy, like our foreign policy 
which necessarily determines the former, should be 
offered not to prepare for a more or less vic- 
torious war following a coalition, but to keep war 
from our land. ... 

10 , 

Ibid . . p. 42. 





' Our geographic position commands us to maintain 
a military apparatus of sufficient size to dissuade 
. ;. any of our neighbors from using our territory to 
,-' attack another state. In carrying out this mission 
Belgium cooperates eminently in achieving peace in 
Western Europe and she creates for herself a right 
( to the respect and to the eventual aid of all states 
which have an interest in peace. . . . 

But our engagements should not go beyond that. 
All unilateral policy weakens our international 
position, and rightly or wrongly stirs up trouble 
at home. Even an exclusively defensive policy 
.' . would not achieve its aim, because irrespective 
;. of how prompt the aid of any ally it would only 
^. come after the shock of invasion which would be 

'• crushing. To battle against such shock we would 
be alone in any case. ... It is for that reason 
that we must, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs 
said recently, follow a policy "exclusively and 
wholly Belgian." Such policy should aim resolutely 
at placing us beyond the conflicts of our 
... , neighbors. ... I repeat, therefore, our policy 
has a unique objective, to preserve us from war 
from wherever it might come. And it is necessary 
that public opinion be indisputably assured of 
this. . . .li 

At the conclusion of Leopold»s speech, the Minister 
of Public Health, the veteran Socialist leader, Emile 
Vandervelde, asked the Monarch in the name of the Cabinet 
that he allow his remarks to be made public. The request 
came as a surprise to Leopold who nevertheless granted 
permission. 12 The words of the King thus became the policy 

Ibid . . pp. 42-43. 


Meetings of the Council of Ministers are secret. 
They afford the monarch an opportunity to speak his mind 
on any topic without the necessity of ministerial approval. 
Thus Leopold was surprised when he received the govern- 
ment's request. 

,; -: 56 

of the Government, and on October 28 Parliament gave a 
massive vote of confidence to Van Zeeland. • ' • i ' 
Before accepting as its own policy the gener- 
alities of the King*s proposals, the Government attempted 
to qualify them. The Senate's Committee on Foreign Affairs 
used the word "independence" to describe the new policy: 
"Belgium should practice an independent and autonomous 
policy, but she should not think of backing out of past 

commitments. She denounces no existing pacts, much less 

does she withdraw from the League of Nations." In a 

speech which preceded the vot - of coiifidence on October 28, 
Spaak declared: "I wish to repeat thab our foreign policy 
does not mean a return to neutrality; we designate our 
foreign policy as one of independence."/*" 

The limits of independence remained vague, however. 
The Government never spelled out how independence would 
differ in actual practice from neutrality, nor did it 
reconcile independence with Belgium's continued member- 
ship in the League and her outstanding obligations under 

•"^ Contribution . p . 44 • 

^Ibid. , p. kk- 

i^ - ■;-- . ■-- ■ ' -;-■ ,... ii. ,;-" ■ - ;: ■■ -^ ■-.',. y ■- -■.^- ^ 

'' I t 

] 57 

Locarno. ^ Yet for all its ambiguity the policy remained 
the basis of Belgian international life from the fall of 
1936 vmtil the war. At each crisis in European politics 
between 1936 and 1939, the Government reassured its nervous 
population of the wisdom and strength of ite foreign ' ■ 
policy, particularly its Socialist citizens who continued 
to distrust the virtues of independence. Spaak defended 
the Government's policy to a General Council of the 
Socialist party in February I938: 

It independence/ is a policy which gives back 
to Belgium its traditional position. I believe ; ' 
that it plays an essential role in Western .- 

:-r\' .■' Europe, essential to European equilibrium. Wo 
' ' must have a position which will not constitute a ■ 
'■^ danger for any of our neighbors. If we have 

alliances in the strict sense of the word we are • 
no longer an element of peace; we become a cause 
of trouble. ... I wish to say that independence 
is not a policy which follows the direction of 
others. . . nor is it a policy of isolation. . . 
nor is it a policy which gives us new friends at 
• ,■ •. the expense of old; it is a policy which should 

be followed in such a manner that we are permitted 


In 1937, one of the sources of ambiguity was 
removed. On April 17, 1937, France and Great Britain 
officially sanctioned Belgium's policy of independence and 
issued a joint declaration, not a treaty , by which they 
relieved Belgiiim of her obligations under Locarno toward 
them while maintaining their obligations toward her. 
Belgium agreed in turn to strengthen her armed forces, to 
defend her own territory in the event of aggression, and 
to close her territory as a freeway or as a base of 
operation for the troops of any aggressive nation. On 
October I3 of the same year, Germany gave a similar 
guarantee. The second source of ambiguity remained, how- 
ever, and indeed was compounded by the stipulation of the 
Franco-British declaration that Belgiiim maintain her 
fidelity to the League of Nations. 



to have good relations with all our neighbors. 

It is a policy which should abound to our credit. ^^ 

The following month Spaak told Parliament: ^ w 

The policy of independence is not perhaps the 
ideal policy, but it is, I become more convinced 
each day, the best possible policy. . . . Faced 
with the debris of the Treaty of Locarno and the 
failure of the League of Nations what should we ' 
have done? ... It is necessary to keep in mind 
above all preconceived theories of the indisputable 
facts: our geographic position, the relativity 
of our forces, the existence in our country of 
Flemings and Walloons; it is necessary above all 
to keep in mind that decisive element: in Western 
Europe, Belgium is an essential factor of European 

; On September 3, 1939, following the German in- 
vasion of Poland, Belgium declared herself neutral (the 
policy of independence had now become one of neutrality 
pure and simple) complying with the stipulations of the 
Franco-British and of the German declarations made in I937, 
On October 7 Prime Minister Pierlot remarked to the press 
that nothing had yet obliged Belgium to take sides in the 
war and that she enjoyed a deserved peace: ^' • 

The position which we have taken today we ■ ' 
assumed long before the events; it dates from 
1936. It is not in contradiction with any former 
commitments since all the neighboring powers 
agreed to respect a neutrality which we expect to 
uphold. . . . Peace is the fruit of political 
wisdom and also of years of military preparedness."^^ 

-^N ' • ; ' Contribution , p. 65. '■ ^ 

/ -'^ 17 

Ibid . , p. 66, 

■ ;■•} 


The Gov ernment's Defense of Independence-Neutrality ; : 
On December I9, I939, follov/ing the first war- 
scare in Western Europe, in Holland, Spaak sought to quiet 
the fears of Parliament: "It suffices for me to repeat 
here with force that Belgixim is neutral and intends to 
stay that way so long as her independence, the integrity 
of her territory, and her vital interests are respected. "^9 

During the parliamentary debates of April 16-17, 
1940, a week following the German invasion of Norway and 
Denmark, with war only two weeks away for Belgivun, Spask 
continued to champion the logic of the policy of ' 

independence-neutrality t 

As the rest of you, without doubt, I have often 
thought, during the past months, about our foreign 
policy for the past five years. Just the other 
; evening I reread the various diplomatic acts v^ich 
concern us and the declarations which accompanied 
them. And I arrived once more at the comforting 
conviction that our foreign policy has been 
perfectly loyal and clear, perfectly honest. 
Doubtless, few countries have so well defined 
their objectives, limited their commitments to 
those which they were sure of being able to support, 
enlightened their neighbors regarding their in- 
tentions; with us there is neither abrupt change 
or surprise; whatever happens, no one will be 
able to say that he was deceived by Belgium. ^0 

Following Spaak* s speech, the debate closed with an 

almost tinanimous vote of reapproval of the policy of 

independence-neutrality: I3I for, 2 abstentions, 3 


Ibid ., p. 103. 


Ibid., p. 112. 


Communists against. "Never did foreign policy meet with 
such general approval in Belgium." 

Unhappily for Belgium the policy of independence- 
neutrality was not successful. It was too many things for 
too many people. It had one meaning for the Belgian 
government, another for the Belgian people, and yet another 
for Belgi\im«s neighbors. The Government had adopted the 
policy in order to allow Belgium to rearm. The Government 
hoped thereby to keep Belgium cut of war but was prepared 
to fight if it were necessary. The Belgian people, despite 
the protestations of the Government, believed that the 
policy had made Belgium into another Switzerland. i 
Belgium's former allies under Locarno, Britain, France and 
Germany, had reluctantly acquiesced in the policy in 1937, 
but their sentiments toward it were hostile. After the 
war came, France and Britain accused Belgium of ingrati- 
tude and lack of faith. Independence-neutrality had 
balanced France and Great Britain on the same scale with 
Germany. Had Belgium forgotten 1914? Had ehe forgotten 
the years of peace between IS3O and 1914, years purchased 
by British and French guarantee? Germany, on the other 
hand, claimed that for all her neutrality, Belgian 
sjnnpathy remained pro-Allied. From most points of view 
the policy miscarried. True enough, it had allowed Belgiiim 


Belgium, the Official Accoujit of What Happened . 
1939-1940 (London: Evans Bros., Ltd., 1941), p. 24- 

'S' " '^~ll'^lt 



to rearm, but it was a vain and costly effort. Belgium 

was crushed within eighteen days after the invasion; the 

French blamed Belgium for the subsequent fall of France, 

and the British came close to annihilation in Belgium be- \ 

cause of what they considered Belgian duplicty. I 

Failure of such dimensions cannot go unatoned.. 
Those who play a part in it must seek to disociate theml ^ 
Wives from its responsibility or suffer the consequences I ',:S 
of their deeds. As we shall see in a later chapter the J 

recriminations over the policy of independence-neutrality - >4 
and the royal question became enmeshed, and the opponents '} 
of King Leopold sought to shift responsibility for the 
policy from the Government to the Monarch. Between I936 
and 1940, those who had been dissatisfied with independence- 
neutrality had voiced the same accusations. Event. ' " ' ' ; 
following 1940 ca^ed the statements made to answer these 
,,v earlier charges to lose none of their vigor. On 

December 26, I936, Paul Van Zeeland, the Prime Minister, 
.had said before the House of Representatives J 

.!.;._ ,,*:.^ Someone has dared, from this tribune, to 
,V : attempt to establish a distinction, how I don»t 
know, between the attitude of the government and 

■•>'• ;?®.°?!®''^ ?^ ^^® ^^"^S. Has it been forgotten 
,.,.•,; that the publication of the discourse was an act 

of the Government? We are a parliamentary regime, 
a constitutional monarchy. The King acts through . 
■ :, J^® intermediary of his ministers, and it is thr 
.' , • Government which assumes responsibility, which 



:■- .•■01 

^ t 


endorses, which applies, and which makes its own • 

the magnificent doctrine set forth in the royal 
speech. 22 

.,_ Two years later on March 16, I938, Paul-Henri Spaak 

addressed the House of Representatives! 

Belgivim practices a policy called the 
"policy of independence" which found its first 
complete expression in the speech given by the 
King to his Ministers on October 14, I936, a "" " ^*^ 
speech approved iinanimously by them and published 
with the approval of all of them, a speech whose 
■.,« directive ideas have received many times the ' 
warmest approval of Parliament. It is therefore ' 
as absurd as it is inconvenient to pretend, as it 
is done in certain publications and in certain 
places that there exists a personal policy of the 
King in opposition with that of the nation. 23 • '' 

And on December I9, 1939, Spaak, speaking once again to 

the lower House, had this to say about King Leopold who 

was leaving for The Hague to discuss with Queen Wilhelmina 

the German threat to Hollandi "^ ' '. •■, ■-IV 

..... )^'. 4 ^ ■' ■ ■ 

Let me say that under these circumstances it 
;_ is not enough for me to cover the King consti- • .> 
V tutiondlly. It is necessary that I thank him ' "' '' 
publicly for his manificent efforts which for ■ 
several years now have spared our country the 
horrors of war; for his wise counsel which he ha« 
never ceased to lavish upon the various govern- 
ments which have succeeded one another, for the 
,1 firmness of spirit with which he fulfills his 
difficult task, and for the example which he 
constantly offers to those of us who approach him, ; 
an example which brings forth respect, admiration, 
and af feet ion. 24 

■ ;'.< 


:i-'- ' 


Contribution , p. 46. 

^^ibid. , p. ee, 

^^Ibid. , pp. 104-105. 



The winter of 1939-1940 did not allow Europe 
sufficient time to recover from the shock of Poland 
and arm herself against a new kind of warfare. Germany- 
took Poland in September, 1939, after sixteen days of 
blitzkrieg, a violent surprise offensive carried out by 
mechanized ground forces preceded by saturation bombing 
and covered by mass fighter attack. But Europe had 
barely settled down to what the French and the Belgians 
called the "drole de guerre" ("phony war") when Germany 
used the same technique against Norway and Denmark in 
April, 1940, and on May 10, 1940, invaded Belgium. 

c: For all her preparation, Belgium was helpless. 
Her defensive armor was inadequate, and her offensive armor 
was almost nonexistent. She had few tanks; she had few 
planes, and most of these were destroyed on the ground 
during the first hours of war. The army of 650,000 

Germany had conquered all of Western Poland by 
September 16; the Russians invaded Eastern Poland on 
September 17, and on the 29th the invaders signed a 
treaty dividing Poland between them. 

■ 63 


- ■'■■"'• •;■'..- 2 ■ ■■ • 

V ^ Unlike his father, however, Leopold did not appear 
before Parliament to announce his leavetaking. Irre- 
spective of Leopold* s apparent breach of duty, later in the 
day at the Joint session of Parliament, Plerlot stated that 
the King should be where the fight had broken out. This 
appears to be sufficient evidence that the Government ap- 
proved his behavior and weakens the case of those who ac- 
cused the King of treachery, claiming that Leopold had 
deliberately failed to appear before Parliament so that he 
would have to make no public statement derogatory of 
Germany, implying that his entire plan of action, including 
the conduct of the military campaign, had been carefully 

Perhaps Leopold considered it unnecessary to an- 
nounce his leavetaking since he had taken command of the 
army on September 4, 1939, following the outbreak of war in 
Poland; with the outbreak of war in Belgivun he moved this 
command into the field. Perhaps, too, he considered the 
element of time. The attack in I9I4 had followed an ulti- 
matum between which two events King Albert had the oppor- 
tunity to appear before Parliament. In I94O, the attack 
was sudden and unannounced. 

V '■' 

regulars and 250,000 reserves (more than 10 per cent of 

the population) together with the armed forces of France Z-: 

and Great Britain which came to Belgium's aid fought well ' ''r' 

■■ '■'". 
but could not stop the Germans. i V?" 

The Battle ' ; 

The German attack began at 4 a.m. on May lO, I9I4.O. 
After meeting with the Prime Minister, Hubert Pierlot, the 
Foreign Minister, Paul-Henri Spaak, and the Defense Minis- 
ter, General Henri Denis, King Leopold left for his field 1, , i^l 
headquarters at Breendonk near Antwerp. Following a 
tradition begun by the first Belgian monarch, Leopold I, 
and continued by Albert during the First World War, 
Leopold III assumed personal command of his army.^ 


*f- r)-\. 

-':■:-.■■ ■ ■...-- .. . .-.K- ■■. ■ :, 65 

Shortly after the attack, the Belgian government 
called for the aid of Britain and France, basing Its claim 
for assistance on the agreement of April, 1937.^ The 
Belgian plan, in the event of German aggression, allowed 
three days for the Allied armies to take up their position 
in Belgium along the fortified K-W line which ran from 
Koningshoyckt (near Antwerp) in the north to Wavre in the 
south. The Belgian High Command considered this their 
Maginot line and based their defensive strategy on its 
invulnerability. The Belgians had never considered holding 
the Germans along the Dutch-Genaan border; their strategy 
was to delay the invader long enough to allow the 
guarantors to assume position. The first days of the war 
went according to Belgian plan, accelerated, however, by 
the ujisuspected strength of the Germans. As a result of 
this acceleration the Belgians held only two days, not 
three, in the area of the Albert Canal, and were forced to 
fall back to the K-W line on the evening of May 11. The 


See Chapter II, p. 57. 

This position, known as KW from the names of the 
terminal points consisted of a number of works disposed on 
several lines. They were protected in front by a con- 
tinuous anti-tank barricade and by flooding, whilst anti- 
tank traps were set deep in the position. An underground 
telephone system and a planned road system completed the 
equipment of the position. Belgivun. the Official Account 
of What Happened. lQ3q-lQiiO (London: Evans Bros., Ltd., 
1941), Appendix 16, p. 99. Hereafter cited as Belgium , 
the Official Account. 


British and French, nevertheless, had had sufficient time 
to take up their positions. 

A description of the method of attack used against 
the first enemy objective in Belgium gives evidence of the 
quality of the aggressor's preparedness. The fort at 
Eben-Emael is located close to the juncture of the Meuse 
River and the Albert Canal which joins Antwerp with Liege, 
Its artillery protected three bridges which crossed the 
canal at Vroenhoven, Veldweaelt, and Briedgen. The 
Germans took this vulnerable outpost by an expertly executed 
coup de main which landed troops transported by glider and 
camouflaged by predawn darkness on the roof of the fort. 
The raiders exploded the defensive armament of the fortifi- 
cation, entered the breaches created thereby, and destroyed 
the cannon which covered the bridges. This took place 
while other German troops, transported in the same manner, 
surprised the Belgian detachments guarding the three 
bridges and captured them from the rear. Part of the 
German army, waiting immediately across the border in 
Holland, then moved easily into Belgium. This was di- 
versionary strategy, however, the bulk of the German 
military forces deployed to the south, east of the 
Ardennes. . .. v 

In spite of the fall of Eben-Emael and the 
loss of two bridges /the Belgians had recaptured 
■ ,.■ the bridge at Briedgen/ the Belgian array carried 
out the only independent mission for which it was 
responsible — it held on to the Liege and Albert 


;"-■•■•.■.■. ■■ -■ - ;;■ - ■ " 67 

J . '■ . ' ■ - 

Canal position long enough to enable the bulk 
of the Allied forces to occupy the Antwerp-Namur- 
Givet /the K-W/ line.^ 

As of May 12 the Belgian army ceased to operate as 
an independent unit. King Leopold placed his troops tuider 
the command of the French General Gamelin who became the 
Generalissimo of all the Allied forces fighting in Belgivun 
and France. Leopold was following the example of Albert 
who had subordinated himself to Marshal Foch in I9I4. 
This is significant for two reasons. The Belgian accusers 
of King Leopold claimed that he failed to maneuver his 
troops to the exclusive advantage of Belgium; the Allies, 
on the other hand, and particularly the French, blamed the 
collapse of France on Leopold's tactics. 

The capitulation as a military act, however, lay 
in the logical consequence of events which followed the 
fall of Sedan on May I3. The German assault began on the 
morning of the 13th when the German army east of the 

• -•• 5 

Belgium, the Official Account , p. 37. 

6 ^ 
The French have claimed that the failure of the 
Belgians to hold the Germans at Eben-Emael permitted the 
enemy forces to regroup in the south. However, the troops 
which fought the 9th and the 2na French armies were not 
those which took part in the attack on the Albert Canal. 
The French thought that the Ardennes in I94O were still the 
same barrier they constituted in I9I4. Marshal Petain had 
told the Senate Array Conmiission that the sector was not 
dangerous. But the Germans cut right through the forest 
using fresh troops that had not been in combat in the 
north. . • 

• 4 



Ardennes moved against the French 9th Army in the vicinity 
of Dinant where only advanced elements were in position. 
Later in the day the main offensive was massed against the 
French 2nd Army at Sedan. The city was abandoned by the 
French that same afternoon at 5 o'clock. The drive of the 
Panzer divisions thrown into the breach at Sedan threatened 
to surroxind all the Allied troops in Belgium. The irre- 
sistible GezTnan movement westward and northward began to 
wedge the Allies between the French border and Holland. 
Holland capitulated two days later on May 15, That same 
day General Gamelin ordered the abandonment of the K-W line 
and the withdrawal behind the Escault. This meant the 
surrender of Brussels, Louvain, Lierre, Malines, Antwerp, 
Tirlemont, Wavre, and Namur — in short, most of the major 
Belgian cities. Leopold immediately saw the consequences 
of such strategy. The Allies were abandoning the only 
strongly fortified position in Belgium and retreating toward 
the sea, but unless the ports could be kept in Allied hands, 
the fate of the armies was sealed. Leopold's Kinisters 
urged him to retreat southward, toward France, so that in 
the event of defeat in Belgium the Belgian armies could be 
regrouped to continue the war in France. Such action was 
impossible. Not only were the French and British armies 
deployed between the Belgian troops and the French border, 
but General Gamelin had ordered a westward retreat, and 
Leopold received his directives from the French 


The Germans continued their enormous onrush tov/ard 
the sea. Thcj^ attacked the British and Belgian vmits in 
central Belgium, forcing their constant retreat westward, 
but the German* s concentrated attack was in the south 
across northern France. From May I5 to May 20 they moved 
closer and closer to the coast. On the 18th Peronne fell| 
on the 20th Cambrai; on the 21st the Germans entered 
Amiens and Montreuil and Abbeville. On the l9th, in the 
north, Walcheren Island lying in the mouths of the Scheldt 
fell to the Germans. It had been hald by remnants of the 
French 7th Army that had gone into Holland on VAy 10, .s.Ui • 
The pincer was now established. On May I9 General Weygand 
was recalled from Syria to succeed General Gamelin as the 
Commander-in-Chief of the Allied armies. On the 21st he 
called his first conference, at Ypres. There he decided 
upon an offensive which would restore the line between 
Arras and Albert and stanch the flow of Germans. The ■ 
offensive would move in two directions simultaneously: 
the Allied armies north of the Germans would attack south- 
ward while the French armies south of the Germans would 
attack northward.*^ The Belgians had no weapons for such 
an offensive, so it was agreed that the British and French 
would carry the offensive while the Belgians covered them 


v/hen it was pointed out to General Weygand that 
Abbeville had already fallen, thus making a northward 
attack almost impossible, he proved to be ignorant of 
the fact. 




defensively to the north, extending their front over 
ninety kilometers in order to do so. 

y - 

V with the enemy relentlessly upon them, but vulnerable also 

'♦Planning for the evacuation via Dunkirk was 
begun at G.H.Q. so far as I am aware, about the 21st of 
May, Thereafter, Gort never wavered; he remained steady 
as a rock and refused to be diverted from what he 
knew was the only right and proper course." Field- 
^iAr8hal, the Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, K. G., 


■ : ■"*i/^ 

The British and French in Belgium, attempting to '?if^ 

.:■■ ■■•:| 

re-establish contact with the French armies on the Somme, } 


threw the bulk of their forces in the direction of Arras, i 

but by May 23 the Weygand offensive had collapsed. In the j 

. ^ . meantime, the Germans were focusing their destruction on 

the vulnerable Belgians --vulnerable not only from the east 

from the West} for by the 23rd, the Belgians were no 

<,• •,•-1 

A , ■■■' yiS)! 

longer permitted by the Allied High Command to use the 

. bases at Gravelines, Dunkirk, and Bourgourg along the I 

North Sea. Only Ostend and Nieuport were left to them. 

They were compelled to move their reserves of food, ^ ^i 

■ ■ ' i 

ammvinition, and fuel and to evacuate the injured along a 

single railroad line. Leopold informed the British to 

his right that the last hope for the Belgians was a -:' ..y^ 

counterattack northward by the British Expeditionary 

Forces. By that time, however, the British, after the 

failure of the Weygand offensive, had cut themselves off 

from the Belgians and had begun their retreat toward 




•- --^ The Germans squeezed tighter. Between the 26th 
and the 27th they broke the Belgian lin« at four places 
and began to suffocate the Belgians in an area of 1,700 
square kilometers into which three million people were 
massed—soldiers, local population, and refugees. Food 
was giving out; the army had long since lost its bread ovens 
and was forced to bake haphazardly on the march; the water 
supply had become contaminated, and cases of typhus had 

The Memoirs (Cleveland and New York: The World Publishing 
Co, 1958), p. 61. 

Winston Churchill, in his speech to the House of 
Commons on June 4, 1940, claimed that the Belgian surrender 
exposed the British flank and means of retreat. In his 
second volume concerning the Second World War, Their 
Finest Hour (Boston, Houghton Mifflin, Co.) he states that 
already on the 25th Lord Gort had decided to abandon com- 
pletely the Weygand plan and, acting on his own initiative, 
had begun the retreat toward Dunkirk. On May 26, the 
British War Office approved his conduct. 

Considering the sequence of events, it is not un- 
reasonable to assiime that Leopold thought he had been 
abandoned by the British. According to Churchill, the 
evacuation had begun already two days before Leopold* s 
surrender, and plans for it had been made almost a week 
before if we are prepared to accept the word of Field- 
Marshal Montgomery. 

Let us consider further this passage from Weygand »s 
memoirs, Rappele au Service : 

On the 27th of May, the Belgian army found itself 
in a perilous situation. Its equipment was too far from 
the Yser to enable it to take position there in a reason- 
able length of time. Its right wing, threatened by en- 
circlement, could no longer be freed by either the French 
or the English whose evacuation toward Dvmkirk had already 
begun. Without doubt, the Belgian command thought it had 
been abandoned by its Allies. That is how I judge today 
the decision on which time will bring the judgment of 

already been discovered. To seed chaos among the troops, 
the Germans dropped leaflets showing a map of the Allies 
hopelessly surrounded. The legend read I "Comrades I 
here is the situation. In any case the war is over for 
you. Your leaders are going to escape by airplane. Lay 
down your arms."^ The tract was close enough to the truth 
to have its planned effect: panic and suspicion. Over 
two weeks of constant battle against what appeared to be an 
invincible enemy had almost destroyed Belgian morale. To 
counterbalance the German propaganda, Leopold issued an 
Order of the Day on the 25th which declared: "Officers and 
Soldiers, whatever happens, my fate shall be yours . "-^^ 
On May 2S, the French Generalissimo ordered the 
Belgian army to retreat westward, from the river Lys to 
the Yser, but Leopold refused to comply. -^"^ To do so would 
have resulted in a massacre; his soldiers would have had 
to abandon their heavy equipment and take defenselessly to 
roads already choked with civilians trying to avoid 

Belgium, the Offic ial Account . Appendix 19, p. 102. 

10 ^ 

Recueil de Documents etabll par le Secretariat 
du Roi concernan t la periode iQ^S-lQJjQ (Bruxelles! 
Imprimerie et Publicity du Marais, n.d.), p. 47. Emphasis 
added. Hereafter cited as Recueil . *■ 5^ 

This was part of the plan designed at Ypres by 
Weygand. It was to be put into effect in the event of 
the failure of the offensive. 



destruction. Those moving along the highways would have 

made helpless targets for the German planes which had been 

strafing continuously since the 25th. Leopold chose in- 
stead to end the fighting and sent a plenipotentiary to 
the Germans at 5 p.m. on May 2?. at 11 p.m. the terms were 
returned to him: »»The Fuhrer demands that arms be laid 
down unconditionally. »'13 ^he fighting war ended at k a.m. 
on May 28. ,,.■>., 

At the time Leopold was accused by the Allies, but 
particularly by the French, of surrendering without • ■ 
notifying his guarantors. This charge was revived by his 
opponents in Belgium after 1945. They asserted that he had 
fought the war so that isolation in the northwest corner 

of Belgitom was deliberate and surrender an inevitable 

consequence. •, . • . 

Belgians speak even today about the weather 
during the eighteen days. The normally overcast Belgian 
sky had been cloudless since the morning of the invasion. 
The sky belonged exclusively to the Germans. 


Belgium, the Official Account , p. 51. 

The defenders of King Leopold claim that the &c- 
cusations made by the French were an attempt to cover their 
own desperate failure and lack of preparation. They blame 
Paul Reynaud for initiating the anti-Leopold propaganda, 
but they feel, too, that Winston Churchill is not without 
fault. On May 30, Churchill told the House of Commons 
that "I have no intention of suggesting to the House that 
we should attempt at this moment to pass Judgment upon the 
action of the King of the Belgians in his capacity as 
Commander-in-Chief of the Belgian army." (Churchill, 
op. cit., p. 95) On June 4, however, Churchill announced 
that new facts compelled him to speak. What makes his 


The brief account of the war given in the above 

objectivity suspect was the attempt to throw the onus of 
the war itself on Belgium. "The King of the Belgians 
called for our aid. If the Head of State and his Govern- 
ment had not separated themselves from the Allies that had 
saved their country from death during the last war, if they 
had not taken refuge behind a neutrality whose fatality has 
been shown by history, the British and French armies, from 
the beginning, could have not only saved Belgium but 
perhaps Poland as well. However, at the last moment, when 
Belgium had been invaded. King Leopold called us to his 
aid and we responded to his belated appeal. . . . Suddenly, 
without previous consultation, with the shortest possible 
warning, without taking counsel with his Ministers, and 
on his ovm initiative, he sent a plenipotentiary to the 
Germany High Command, surrendered with his army and ex- 
posed our entire flank and all our means of retreat." 
(Recueil, p. 144) 

It appears that Churchill had completely forgotten 
the guarantee volunteered by England and France in April, 

One cannot be sure of the influence that Reynaud 
had on Churchill* s decision, but v\?illiam Grisar, a major 
in the Belgian army, has testified to a conversation 
which he had with Lord Roger Keyes, British liason officer 
with Leopold III. Lord Keyes recalled a conversation 
which he had had with Churchill during which the latter had 
received a telegreun from the French Minister of Information. 
The telegram read; "At any price, prevent Admiral Keyes 
from defending King Leopold." ( Recueil . p. I4I.) 

On May 28, Paul Reynaud, the French Prime Minister, 
addressed the nation by radio. "I must announce a serious 
event to the French people. . . . France can no longer 
depend upon the aid of the Belgian army. ... It is that 
army which has just capitulated unconditionally, in the 
midst of battle, by order of its King, without warning his 
comrades-in-arms, French or English, opening the road to 
Dunkirk to the German divisions. It was just eighteen days 
ago that that same King who until then had affected to 
attach the same value to the word of Germany as to that of 
the Allies, asked for our help. . . . Then in the midst of 
battle, without warning General Blanchard, without regard, 
without a word for the French and British soldiers who 
answered his anguished call. King Leopold III of the 
Belgians lay down his arms. That is an event without 
precedent in history." ( Recueil . p. 115) 


paragraphs was written to show that the Germans commanded 
the direction of the war from the moment of invasion. 
The northwestward thrust was relentless, executed with 
skill and discipline. The Allied defeat was clear to 
those who cared to look. ^ Leopold told this to the French 
and British as early as May 20. He had already warned his 
Ministers on the 15th that a final breach of the Allied 
front was probable and could easily lead to the isolation 
of the Belgian army and part of the British and French 
forces. Camilla Gutt, the Belgian Minister of Finance, 
had warned the French Prime Minister, Paul Reynaud, when 
the former was in Paris on May I9. On May 20, Leopold, 
learning of the fall of Cambrai and the German threat to 
Abbeville, informed London of his concern. On the 24th, 
after the failure of the Weygand offensive, Gutt, this 
time in London, told Lord Halifax what measures should be 
taken to handle the critical situation in which the ;;■■:" 
Belgian army found itself. After the separation of the 
Ministers and Leopold on May 25, the Ministers personally 
informed both London and Paris of what to expect. On 

.'" ■ •'■• 15 •■-■.■'■. 

"Enough has been said to show that from the 
point of view of command and control of the forces 
available in France in May, 19^0, the battle was almost 
lost before it began. The whole business was a complete 
dog»s breakfast. Who must bear the chief blame? 
Obviously General Gamelin. He was the Supreme Commander, 
and, as such, was responsible." (Field Marshal, the 
Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, op. cit .. p. 54.) 


May 26, the Belgian High Command warned General Weygand 
that the Belgian army had "nearly reached the limits 
of its endurance. "^^ On the following day, the King 
sent a similar message to General Gort, the Commander- 
in-Chief of the British forces in Belgium. "^"^ Later in 
the day, the French liaison authorities were told that 
"Belgian resistance is at its last extremity; our front 
is about to break like a worn bowstring. "^^ Before 
sending his envoys to the Germans at 5 p.m. on the 27th 
to ask the terms of surrender. King Leopold informed 
both the British and the French missions. ^^ 

The above paragraphs have attempted to show ■ ■ 
that King Leopold did not deserve to be called a traitor 
for his surrender. The French Ambassador to Belgium, 
Albert Kammerer, in his book La Verite en Marche . empha- 
sized that the communiques of General Weygand and Paul 
Reynaud revealed their full knowledge of Leopold's 

' i..f /.■■'■■ 

Belgium, the Official Account , p. 46. 


Ibid . . p. 48. 

■^®Ibid., p. 49. 


The French mission was able to warn Weygand 
in Paris, but General Blanchard, coimnanding the French 
forces in the field, could not be contacted, and 
General Gort could not be foiind. 


decisions. Colonel Thierry, the head of the telephone 

communication service in the French army, in a state- 
ment to Jacques Pirenne, Leopold's private secretary, 
corroborated Kammerer.^^ Lt. Colonel Robert Duncan Brown, 
the military attache to the American Embassy in Brussels 
in 1940, said that "in capitulating May 28, the King of 
the Belgians did the only thing he could do. Those who 
speak otherwise saw neither the battle nor the German . 
air force. "22 joggph G. Davis and Hu^ Gibson, former 
American ambassadors to Belgixim, William Philips, the ■ I 
American ambassador to Italy in I94O, and Herbert 
Hoover, without any doubt the American whom the Belgians 
most respect, all defended the behavior of the King.23 
Finally, Admiral Roger Keyes, in the preface to 
Cammaerts* The Priso ner at Laek^n , deplored the vin. 
dictive abuse heaped on Leopold whom he considered the 
scape goat for French failure: "I am glad to have this 
opportunity of declaring that King Leopold was steadfast 


Recueil . p. I64. 


Ibid., p. I64-I65. Statement made on 
January I7, 1943. 


Ibid ., p. 160. 

IkM-, p. I63-I64. See Herbert Hoover, >.r. ^««*, 
The Belgian Gampai p;Ti. ' ... V\ 


in his loyalty to the Allies and did everything in his 

power to help their armies. "^^ ' 

The Separation of King and Government 

Had the surrender been of military importance only, 

the controversy that grew into the royal question would 
have probably died away after the initial shock of defeat 
had worn off .^^ But the capitulation and its consequences 
had primarily political and constitutional significance, 
and the initial conflict between the King and his Govern- 
ment over military strategy, i.e., the Government tg in- 
sistence that Leopold and the Belgian army retreat south- 
ward toward France and Leopold »s refusal to consider such 

iQin LA /-^^e^ts, op. cit.. Preface, vii. On May 10. 
1940, Admiral Keyes, the British hero at Zeebruege 
during j^orld Wan, was sent to Belgium as liaison be- 
tween King Leopold and the British government. He 
remained until 10 p.m. on the night of May 27. He be- 
came one of the strongest defenders of the King and of 
hxs conduct during the eighteen-day campaign. His 
opinions, considered above reproach because of his 
SnS^^f Jr ^"""^ war record, were quoted and requoted - 
during the royal affair by the pro-Leopold faction. 

■ ■ ■ — - 25 

™-.Hf« .^ ■^'^ May, 1940, the Kingtg right to capitulate 

?iJ^ r^A? ''^^f debatable constitutional question. 

Article 68 of the Constitution makes the King the 

Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. Leopold I 

^ ^^r^ Belgian monarch, interpreted thilas personal 

command and led his troops in the field. The tSal 

Wo^irwr^''?''u^''i'^'^ ^^ ^^"S ^^^^^^ '^^''i^ the First 
tnf?"! r ""^ ?^ Leopold III in 1940. The Consti- 
tution does not specify, however, that this function 
is subject to ministerial approval. Leopold I was 
diS^Xf ^'^ "^ '"^^ """^^^ ^y ^ responsible minis te?, and 
A^frt on 7r^ ^?"^t ^^ '^? "^^ °^ ^i"g ^^d cabinet. 
p;?^o M^ ? ^ °^u^'' ^^"^* although accompanied by his 
Prime Minister, who was also Minister of Defense, Baron 

■ 79 

action, soon deepened into a conflict over political 
policy which led to the separation of King and Cabinet on 
May 25, 1940. 

The capitulation and the events preceding it 
revealed the personality of the King more sharply than 
any series of events since his accession. An attempt will 
be made, therefore, to explain why tho King behaved as he 
did during the eighteen days of battle. ■ 

. .. __ Leopold was called upon to continue the tradition 
of the soldier-king. He hoped to be worthy of the memory 

of his father and secure a like place in the sentiments of 

his people. Possibly for the first time he felt free from 

what he considered the fetters of his ministers, particu- 
larly remembering the strained relationship which had 
existed between him and his various governments since 1934 
and his opinion of parliamentary procedure which had grown 
out of it. The glamour of battle is often strong for an 
ordinary man; for a warrior-king it must have been irre- 
sistible. The power to command, the strategy which manipu- 
lates human life: isn»t thj.s what kings are born for? 
Those things which separate the prince from the 

de Broqueville, issued orders in his own name, leaving 
the impression that he alone made the final decisions 
regarding military strategy and policy. This impression 
was strengthened by Albert ♦s statement made to Parliament 
at the first session following the war that he was return- 
ing to give account of his behavior. Parliament, by 
approving the results, victory, approved tacitly the means 
by which such victory was achieved. 

King Leopold saw early the near-inevitability of 
defeat. The German blitzkrieg was unexpected. The 
precision of German military planning implemented by a war 
laachine whose efficiency had no prototype only could be 
appreciated by those taking part physically in the battle. 
As a consequence, the Belgian Ministers who mot with the 
King during the course of the eighteen-day war accused 
him of defeatism when he predicted what could be expected; 
they later described his awesome clairvoyance regarding 
the disastrous progress of the war and its even more 
disastrous outcome. The mutual lack of understanding which 
resulted in the separation of Leopold and his i:inister8 on 
May 25 began with the defeat at Sedan: the Ministers were 
still convinced of the victory of the Allies; the King 
4id not share their optimism. This statement must be 
qualified, however. The Ministers believed that the 
Germans could be stopped by the Allied armies in the 
immediate future; King Leopold, on the other hand, be- 
lieved that the Allies would win eventually , but he fore- 
saw a war lasting ten or more years. At that time America 



people must have been uppermost in Leopold's mind. This 
could explain the chilled and formal attitude toward his 

Ministers when they questioned the wisdom of his decisions. "^ 

The eighteen-day campaign showed Leopold to be a man of ;'"^h^ 

courage and honor, but it showed him also to be stubborn, ''^'^^ 

blind, and immature in the ways of a twentieth century , ''-V^S 

monarch. ■ ,, ■ ./!^M 



was neutral, and the prospects of her entrance into the 
war were vague while the Soviet Union had made its peace 
with Germany. The future for Western Europe appeared 
hopeless. Leopold foresaw defeat and tried to salvage the 
most from it for his country. 

For this decision, Leopold was called a traitor 
by his Ministers. Though they recanted soon thereafter, 
an identification had been established which the King was 
never able to throw off. The Ministers' accusation was 
reprehensible even considering their highly charged emotions 
during the days immediately following the separation on 
May 25. Militarily Leopold had acted with intelligence. 
But by surrendering his troops and refusing to follow his 
Ministers into exile he acted unwisely politically when 
one considers the relationship which should exist between 
a king and his ministers under a constitutional monarchy. 
Later on Leopold had to pay the price for the right to 
judge, to have an opinion; he had to pay the price for 
the lack of intelligence that blinded him to the limits 
of his authority, his obstinate inability to distinguish 
between his military and political capacities. His sur- 
render of the army was not treachery, however, but his 
confusion as to whether he was surrendering his country 
and his permitting himself to be captured was the result 
of his limited political vision. In short, action taken 
with good intentions, i.e., the prevention of useless 
bloodletting, had political consequences which he should 
have foreseen. It is primarily this lack of foresight 



and its consequences which should be taken into consider- 
ation in judging the King. 

.... The conflict between King Leopold and his Ministers 


began on May 14, the day following the defeat at Sedan, as 
a difference of opinion over military operations. Prime 
Minister Pierlot urged the King to retreat southward 
toward France. Leopold answered that such orders would 
have to originate with his commanding officer, the Gener- 
alissimo of the Allied anaies. It must be said in favor 
of the King that he saw the military conditions of the 
Allied armies more clearly than Pierlot, and his refusal 
to comply with the Prime Minister's demands was logical 
and legitimate, for a southward retreat would only have 
served to increase the probability of Belgian encirclement 
and defeat. The problems of surrender were discussed at 
the next meeting between King Leopold and his Government 
on the 16th. The King asked his Ministers: "What has the 
Queen of Holland done?" Spaak answered that she had gone 
to London with her government and had issued the statement 
that she intended to continue the war. Leopold replied: 
"Do you think that she has acted wisely?"^^ Spaak com- 
mented that from that Thursday (the 16th) an uneasiness in 


Recuell . p. 78. 


regard to the personal capitulation of the King began to 
grow in the minds of the Ministers.^''' 

Following the meeting of the l6th, Pierlot sent to 
the King a written summary of the Government's position 
which allowed no room for conflicting interpretation. He 
informed his Sovereign that at all cost the King had to 
avoid capture: .._ ^. ^ _^ 

Regardless of the course of events and so long 
as the Allied powers continue the fight, the fact 
of the existence of Belgium must be affirmed by the 
continuation and the activity of the essential 
organs of state. . . . The problem is not exclu- 
sively a military one. It does not concern solely 
the conduct of operations but also the political 
aspects of the war and all the consequences of the 
decisions which will be taken . ^° 

On the 20th, Pierlot, Spaak, and Denis, accom- 
panied this time by Arthtir Van der Poorten, the Minister 
of the Interior, met with Leopold. ^9 Afterward, the Min- 
isters composed a memorandtun of the conversation and sent 
a copy to the King. The Ministers declared that the only 

Ibid. These quotations and those given in Foot- 
notes 34 and 35 taken from Spaak come from the address 
Spaak delivered to the Belgian legislators at Limoges on 
May 31, 1940. His speech was given extemporaneously; 
thus when he quoted others, his quotations were not ver- 
batim but from memory. 

Recueil. p. 67. The present author's emphasis. 

^On the l6th the government had moved from 
Brussels to Ostend; on the 18th, most of the f Ministers 
had been sent into France; by the 20th, the above- 
mentioned were the last four remaining in Belgi\im. 


policy which they would support was that which required the 
King, in the event of defeat in Belgium, to leave for 
France in order to continue the war.^O They rejected the 
conditions which Leopold had set down during the meeting. ^^ 

Pierlot, Spaak, and Denis met once again with the 
Sovereign on the 21st, the last meeting before the separa- 
tion on the 25th. The letter written by the King to 
Pierlot suggests what took place: 

I do not think that I deserve the reproaches 
which the government made against me of following 
a policy which would have as its object the con- 
clusion of a separate peace with Germany. In 
accomplishing my constitutional mission as 
Commander-in-Chief, my primary concern has been 
to defend the country, while cooperating, as far 
as possible, in the war commanded by the Allied 
armies, and while seeking to avoid endangering 
our army. . . . The only difference of viewpoint 
which has manifested itself between us is that in 
any case it cannot be a question of my sharing the 
fate of my army. I answered that it was impossible 
to exclude a possibility justifying that attitude. 32 

Pierlot answered the King»s letter on the following day. 

May 23: • •' ■'■•'■■ ^-T 

^^ Recueil . pp. 68-69. , '' - . :^ 

3^Leopold had said that he would continue to fight: 
1) if the Belgian army remained in contact with the main 
French force; 2) if the French and British continued to 
fight in spite of a Belgian defeat. He qualified his 
readiness to leave, however, by the notice that if France 
and England appeared that they would be compelled to make 
peace with Germany, his place would be with his troops in 
BelgiTim. Leopold implied that he would interpret ^f and 
when this contingency had arisen. 

^^ Recueil . pp. 69-70. 



I have never kept from Your mjesty that I 
could not share his opinion concerning the extent 
of the constitutional provisions which grant to 
the Sovereign the ccamaand of the array. That text 
does not depart frcwa the general, absolute rule 
f ollovring which the government alone carries the 
responsibility for the acts of the Head of State. 
... In fact, the ftinctlonine of our institutions 
does not permit an accoxxnting from anyone else 
except the ministers. 33 

Spaak commented to the legislators at Limoges on the 

anxieties of the iiinlsters between the 21st and the 25th 

as they waited for the final decision of the King. H« 

spoke of the terror which accompanied the Ministers* 

realisation that the King was going to accept a political 

role under the occupation i 

The King had a certain number of radically 
false ideas t 

1) The Belgian army should fight only on Belgian 

2) The French and British Allies had been 
defeated and the war was over. Peace Is going to be 
made and consequently it is necessary to change 
cards and seek, as far as possible, the favor of him 
who will be the victor. 

As I have said thess are ooispletely false, mis- 
taken ideas. • . . v/e were awam of the reasons which 
the King wanted to take advantage of. We found them 
mad, stupid, more: crimiixal, because they indicated 
in the King a total collapse of a certain moral sense 
which shocked us. 34 

Answering the King's contention that Belgium owed nothing 
more to Britain and France, Spaak observed » 

^^IMj1«» PP» 70-72. 
3 %bid .. pp. 87-88. 


Sire, you could have done something else had 
the country allowed you. You could have made a kind 
of isolated defense like the King of Denmark. But 
the moment you issued the request for aid, and 
thousands of French and English soldiers came to be 
killed for the defense of Belgium, you were bovmd. 
If you abandon their cause, you will be a traitor 
and will be dishonored. 35 

By the 24th the Ministers had decided to leave 
Belgixun. They telephoned the King to determine hie de- 
cision! either to follow them into exile or to stay, but 
he was not yet ready with an answer. The Ministers, pre- 
pared to leave with a small entourage, went for a final 
interview which took place at the Chateau de Wynendael, 
near Bruges, vdiere Leopold had transferred his head- 
quarters. The following account of the interview, probably 
the single most dramatic episode in Belgian history, was 
written by Hubert Pierlot. It is too important and too . 
fascinating not to be quoted at length. 3^ ^. 

Pierlot : Many times already we have made known 
to the King our conviction that if the Belgian army 
were in whole or in part exposed to the imminent 
danger of surrender, the King should do everything 
possible to prevent his capture. We have told the 
King the reasons for this. The capitulation, in 
addition to its serious character as a military act, 
would take on a political complexion if the King 

35ibid. , p. S9. 


3"The following account is taken from the Contri- 
bution, pages 137 to 141. Pierlot wrote his account later 
from memory; there was no stenographic record of the 
Wynendael meeting. Only the King and four ministers were 
present — Pierlot, Spaak, Denis, and Van der Poorten. 
Therefore the quotations are not verbatim but reconstructed 
after the event. 

The term "couvrir" — to cover — used later by Pierlot 


were to sign it or if he were at the head of the 
Army when it took place. Moreover, if the Army 
must capitulate, the military role of the King 
would have finished, whereas he could continue to 
function as Head of State alongside the Allied 
governments. . . . This is the duty of the King.. 
The government unanimously shares this opinion. 
• . . As for the Ministers, their presence near the 
King at the moment of an eventual capitulation could 
only contribute to the political aspect of the event 
which we would want to avoid at all costs. 

The Prime Minister then explained to the King that the 

three other ministers would leave immediately and that he 

would remain until the last moment if only the King would 

agree to leave with him. Pierlot wrote: 

After a moment of silence, the King answered 
with visible effort: "I have decided to remain. 
Over and above the most substantial considerations 
from a logical or political point of view, there 
are reasons of sentiment which one cannot dismiss. 
To abandon my army would be desertion." 

Spaak then spoke to the King. (Until this point, the King 

had kept his Ministers standing, indicating a short, 

formal meeting. Spaak asked that they be allowed to sit 

down since there was much more to be discussed. The King 

gave permission.) 

STJaak : In the unanimous opinion of the Government, 
the King is making a serious mistake. By falling 
to the enemy he separates himself from the Allies. 
He refuses to continue to fight at their side con- 
trary to the moral obligations which he contracted 
in calling for their aid. ... If the King remains, 
what will he be able to do? . . . Everything he 

is the term used to indicate the action of a responsible 
government when it assumes responsibility for the actions 
of the monarch, who constitutionally speaking could only 
act on the advice of responsible ministers. 

■ f,t 


attempts to do will compromise him and compromise 
the cause of our independence because the King 
will be acting under the control of the enemy. ... 
I would like the King to give us some idea of the 
role to which he has alluded and which he will con- 
tinue to play in Belgium. 

Leopold ; I do not know. I have no idea what it 
will be possible for me to do. But I hope to be 
able to continue to maintain a minimum economic 
life in the country and thereby to facilitate its 
provisioning and to spare my compatriots at least 
the worst sufferings, such as deportation. 

If I do not remain in Belgium I am convinced 
that I will never return. The Allied cause is lost. 
Within a short time, in a few days, perhaps, France 
in turn will be forced to give up the fight because 
the disproportionate strength /of the enemjT^ does 
not permit her even the hope of success. Without 
doubt. Great Britain will continue the war— not on 
the continent, but on the sea and in her colonies. 
That war could be long. The intervention of Belgixim 
would be useless, and as a consequence her role is 
finished. For a period which might last for many 
years Belgium will have perhaps limited independence, 
which will again permit her a certain national life : 
while awaiting that day when, in the wake of \in- 
imaginable difficulties, more favorable circvimstances 
will once again return for our country. 

In these circumstances there is no longer a place 
for the attempt to continue the war alongside the 

The decision which I am taking is terribly diffi- 
cult for me. Certainly I would have an easier life 
if I retired to France, if I went to live there with 
my children, awaiting the end of the torment; but I 
believe that when two paths open themselves before 
youj ihe path of duty is always the more difficult. 
It is that which I have chosen. 

The Ministers : In the opinion of the King, vAiat should 
we do? 

Leopold : Man to man I say to you clearly, do what you 
think fit, and if you reason that you must leave, I 
will not try to stop you. 

Spaak t We cannot be content with that answer from 
the King. We ask for instructions, but first we must 
make sure of the King's conception of the role which 
he will yet be called upon to play in Belgium. Will 
the King have a government? 




Plerlot writes that before answering, the Sovereign 

reflected, and the expression his face gave the impression 

that he had never asked himself that question. ' " '; •■-•:*^, ' 

Leo-nold t Naturally, for I do not want to be a ' ' 

Spaakt Could that government, in the King»s opinion, 
be the present one? 

Leopold ? Doubtlessly not. It seems certain that the 
occupant would never consent to it. 

Pierlot: But if the King forms a government, what will 
be the position of the present Government, not only 
the ministers here present, but those who are in 
France? In the King's opinion, should they resign? 

Leopold : That appears to loe in the logic of the * . 
situation. . ' i ; '. 

Spaakt It is necessary to foresee the reaction which 
will occur among the Belgians in free territory and 
to foresee the eventuality that the present Govern- 
ment, or another which might take its place, decides 
to continue the war alongside the Allies while. . . 
the Kins would have already made peace or would 
consider in any case that hostilities had ceased 
between Belgixim and Germany. 

Pierlot t If the present Government takes the attitude 
indicated by Mr. Spaak and continues the war in 
France, will that Government still be the King's 

Leopold s No, the Government would necessarily be 
opposed to me. 

Pierlot again observed that the King's answers were 
always given concisely but each time after a moment of 
reflection which led the Ministers to believe that the 
eventualities raised by them had not been previously con- 
sidered by the Sovereign, or if they had, had not been 
given thorough examination on his part. The Ministers 


then wondered if perhaps they should stay with the King 

in some unofficial capacity. ■ .. v ' 

Leopold ; It would be advantageous to have as many 
persons as possible in Belgium having a moral 
authority which they could employ to maintain the 
cohesion and unity of the country. Moreover, even 
if the ministers resigned and were lunable, as a 
consequence, to participate in the Government, ,, 
couldn*t they continue to aid me by giving advice 
and counsel which I might be led to ask of them? 

The 'ministers were not long in rejecting this hybrid 

situationi . "' 

The ?4inisters : Our place would no longer be with the 

King Decause, as we have already made clear, even if 
we resigned our presence would help give to the 
events a political complexion which we wish to avoid 
or which we do not wish them to have by our act. Our 
place is with our colleagues with whom we could act 
as a unit once the Government was completely re- 
constituted. •• ••• 
tVhatever they be, the intentions of the King, the 
conduct which he intends to follow, will be interpreted 
in Belgium and abroad, and particularly in the Allied 
countries, as treason to the cause to which the King 
and Belgium have been linked since they appealed for 
the giiarantee of England and France. Far from being 
a rallying point, the King would occupy a contra- 
dictory position among his people. The monarchical 
institution which has been the efficacious symbol 
and means of our national unity would find itself 
compromised~wlthout doubt, irremediably. 

All attempts to persuade the King to reconsider his 

position proved futile. Before leaving the King, Pier lot 

said to himt 

Following the letter and spirit of the Constitution, 
the ministers answer to all acts of the King either by 
foroally assuming responsibility by countersignature 
or /by assuming responsibility/ for public acts done 
by the Head of State in the exercise of his function. 
Since the creation of the Belgian state in its 
present form, all governments have considered that 
their essential duty has been to "cover" the Crown. 



None have ever failed in that obligation. In the 
present case we are forced to say that our attitude 
Biust be different. The King has adopted a line of 
' conduct contrary to the unanimous advice of the 
Government; the latter has not ceased to voice its 
reservations; it would be too unjust to have wei/^h 
upon us a responsibility of which we should have to 
carry no part at all. It concerns a problem of 
extreme gravity upon which depends the existence of 
our institutions and of our country. We think that 
the King's manner of acting compromises everything. 
We have already said so. We do not want history to 
record us as the cause of the catastrophe which is 
about to take place. If the King persists in his 
intentions, we shall be forced not only to refuse to 
cover him but also publicly to break with him. We 
know that such a thing is without precedent and 
breaks with the traditions of public law. But we 
see no other attitude possible than that which we 
have Just announced. 

Leopold t I understand your situation. You have a 
conviction. I know that it is sincere. You do as it 
tells you to do. 

What began then as a dispute over military operations 
ended in a political dispute which went to the heart of the 
relationship between a king and his cabinet under a 
constitutional monarchy. The Ministers had one policy, to 
continue the war alongside the Allies, beyond the borders 
of Belgium, while the King, it appeared, had formulated and 
intended to follow another. The Ministers took their leave 
of Leopold fully convinced that he would treat with the 
Germans and continue to reign under German occupation.-^' 


They left knowing, however, the following passage 

from the letter Leopold wrote to King George VI: "By 

remaining in my country, I realize full well that my 

position will be difficult, but my essential preoccupation 

will be to stop my compatriotes from being obliged to be 

associated with any action against the countries which have 

aided Belgivim in the fighW (Recueil, p. I3I. 


This they considered to be unconstitutional because it 
would go counter to the advice of responsible ministers; 
Leopold, on the other hand, was concerned lest he fail to 
have a government with which to rule. To Leopold the 
presence or absence of a government in Belgium was the only 
significant factor in determining the constitutionality of 
his actions. The Ministers believed that the link of con- 
stitutionality would be broken from the moment of the 

After the surrender, the Government issued an 

official decree stating that the King no longer reigned: 

In the name of the Belgian people, under Article 
62 of the Constitution, considering that the King is 
under the power of the invader, the ministers united 
in council state that the King is foiind unable to 
reign (le rol se trouve dans l*impossibilite de 
regner) .38 

On May 3I, those members of Parliament who had 
fled BelglTim and were in France met with the Belgian *, 

overnment-ln- Exile at Limoges. The entire Cabinet waa-;-. 
present with the exception of Antoine Delfosse. There 
were some present who wanted to vote a total repudiation 
Of the King.-"^ The leaders and In particular Plerlot had 


Recueil . p. 117* 

■ 39 

Others wanted to go even further. Mr. Euset 

wae warmly applauded by certain members when he declared: 

"I accept nothing from the defenders of the King; I 

accept no extenuating circumstances. I say that the ' 

situation demanded of him a precise and imperative duty. 

He failed; let him be executed." ( Recueil . p. I3I.) 




the discipline and good sense to remind the legislators, 
many of whom in the confusion and heat of recent events ; 
had lost perspective, that such action, even if possible, 
could only be taken by all the national representatives 
and not Just by those present in Limoges. He was forced 
to remind them that the meeting at Limoges was not 
official and that the legislators could make no binding 
decisions.^ As a result, debate was limited to a state- 
ment of the repudiatiation of the capitulation and an 
interpretation of the words "impossibilite de regner." 
Many of the legislators at Limoges felt that the words 
were equivocal and failed to spell out the circumstances 
of this "impossibility." Was it merely a physical impossi- 
bility or was it a moral and legal one as well? The 
following resolution was voted unanimously by the members 
of Parliament: 

40 ^ 

The Government's declaration regarding the 
impossibility to reign was fully constitutional, however. 
In fact, the Council of Ministers now held both legislative 
and executive power. The King, under Article 2? of the 
Constitution, became sole legislator in the event that 
Parliament could not act. Under Article 82, the Council 
of Ministers coiild assume the King's prerogatives under 
certain conditions. Those conditions were fulfilled as 
of May 2S, I940. 

Pierlot, however, even considering his level head, 
was partly responsible for the temperature of the debate 
on May 3I. On May 28, he had addressed the Belgian people 
by radio: 

Ignoring the formal and unanimous opinion of the 
Government, the King has just opened separate 
negotiations and has treated with the enemy. Belgium 
will be horror-stricken, but the fault of cane man can- 
not be imputed to an entire nation. Our army has not 



The Belgian senators and representatives present 
in France unanimously expressing their sentiments: 

Condemn the capitulation in which Leopold III 
took the initiative and for which he carries the 
responsibility before history; 

Bow with respect before those who have already 
fallen for the defense of our independence and 
render homage to the army which has suffered an 
undeserved fate; 

Affirm their confidence in our youth which will 
soon replace our colors on the battlefield; 

Declare themselves solidly behind the Govern- 
ment which has stated the legal and moral impossibility 
for Leopold to reign; 

Address to their compatriots in enemy-occupied 
Belgium the expression of their warm and fraternal 
S3napathy, sure of their loyal patriotism; 

Attest their firm resolution to consecrate all the 
forces of the country and of the colony to the pursuit 
of the fight against the invader until the liberation 
of Belgian soil, alongside those powers which 
responded at the hour of Belgium's attack; 

Express their profound gratitude to France and 
Great Britain which have fraternally opened their 
doors to the refugees; 

And affirm their unwavering confidence in the 
victory of right and of honor. **! 

deserved the fate which he has caused it. (Recueil. 
p. 148.) ' 

Pierlot had been infected by the venon in Paul 
Reynaud»s attack on the King and the army, and he feared 
for the safety of the Belgian refugees in France, many 
of whom had been physically attacked by the French. (See 
n. 14). This offers partial vindication, but the temper 
of the meeting on May 3I had been strongly influenced by 
Pierlot* s attitude only three days before. It was abetted 
by Spaak's unique talent for echoing the dominant tone of 
the moment. It was from his mouth that came the word 
"treason." True enough, he was denying that there had been 
premeditation on the part of Leopold, but he labeled the 
King's actions as traitorous. "When one speaks of this 
treason. . . the word burns my lips and chokes me." 
(Recueil, p. 75.) 

41 . ; 

Recueil . p. I38. Emphases added. 

. •■'• 

Between the 25th and the 2Sth the King changed 
his mind about treating with the enemy. His reasons are 
not known. Some said that the opinion of three jurists 
whom he asked for advice, Albert Deveze, Joseph Pholien, 
and Hayoit de Termicourt (respectively a minister, a 
senator, and the Attorney General of the Supreme Court) was 
decisive. Others said that Leopold had no other alter- 
native. The Germans did not offer terras; they demanded an 
unconditional surrender, implying that there would be no 
other government in Belgium except the Government of , 
occupation. Still others believed that Leopold »s failure 
to receive the requested countersignature forced him to 
realize that even from his own point of view any future 
action on his part would be unconstitutional. 

On Jvuie 2, Leopold asked his Government in Paris 
to send an envoy to Switzerland to receive documents 
which would clarify and vindicate the King's behavior from 
May 25 to May 28, The Vicount Berryer met with the King's 
envoy, Louis Fredericq who presented a copy of the 
pastoral letter written by the Cardinal-Archbishop Van Roey 
informing the Belgian faithful that the King had not signed 
a treaty of peace, the text of a letter from the King to 

^^On the 26th, the King had contacted his 
Ministers in Paris requesting a countersigning, a carte 
blanche approval, which would enable him to accept the 
resignation of his present Government and to form a new 
Cabinet. The request was rejected. 

the Belgian diplomatic posts throughout the world, a 

duplicate of the Sovereign* s last proclamation to his 

troops on May 25, a svimmary of military operations edited 

from the documents of the Belgian High Command, and the 

note signed by Deveze, Pholien, and de Termicourt. 

The King»s letter to the diplomatic posts, after 

giving a brief accoujit of the war, the obstinate retreat, 

the encirclement, and the notification and prewarning to 

the Allies, concluded: 

The representatives sent to the German military 
authorities on the evening of the 27th had the precise 
and technical mission to inquire into the terms of a 
cessation of hostilities. The Germans demanded the 
unconditional deposit of arms to be accepted at k a.m. 
on the 28th. No negotiations of any sort were entered 
Into. The English and French military missions 
assigned to the Belgian G.H.Q. were kept informed. ^3 

The note of the three jurists was the most 

significant of the documents.^ Part One concerned the 

circumstances leading to the laying down of arms and 

reiterated v/hat is already known to us. In Part Two, the 

Jurists took the position that by remaining with his 

soldiers, Leopold prevented a complete collapse of morale 

and insured them of better treatment by the victors. 


Recueil . pp. 166-16?. 

The entire note appears in the Recueil . pp. 16?- 


, '97 

Concerning the legal aspects of the surrender, the Jurists 
had this to say in Part Three: 

Contrary to what has been alleged, the King has 
not treated with the enemy; he has signed with the 
enemy neither treaty nor convention. The only order 
given was to lay down arms, a military order. 

If the conclusion of a treaty or of a convention j 
must be covered by the personal signature of a "j 

: responsible minister, the same thing is not required j 
for a military act or order. Without doubt, when 1 

the head of the army is able to keep in contact with ] 
- his ministers, it behooves him to make no decision, 
,. even a military one, of primary importance without 
referring it to them or at least to one of them. But 
when all the ministers have left the country and 
communications with them have become impossible, the 
head of the general staff is invested with the power ] 
to decide, in conjunction with the King, all v^ich 
concerns the military. 

The order given in the manner it was could not 
possibly be subject to a constitutional objection 
even on the part of those who do not recognize the '^ 

King»s authority to decide alone, in his capacity 
as Commander-in-Chief of the army, all which concerns 
the military. 

After finding that as prisoner of war the King was 
"temporarily unable to rule" the Jurists came to the 
following conclusions: 

1) The dramatic error which has consisted of 
accusing the King of having treated with the enemy and 
of having thereby violated his oath must be rectified 
immediately by all available means. Thp King has 
concluded no pact, treaty, or convention with the 
enemyi he has not acted except in his capacity as 
head of the army and in accord with the head of the . 
general staff, after having decided that, all 
circumstances considered, any continuation of the 
battle by the army would lead to horrible conse- ' 
quences without any appreciable military useful- 
ness. ... On the 25th, in a poignant message to his 
army he sought to galvanize the troops by announcing i 

to them that whatever happened their fate would be 
his. That admirable self-denial sustained their 
courage and thus prolonged the resistance. Every- 
one, officers and soldiers, dismayed by the errors 
committed abroad. . . have manifested their loyalty 


to the Sovereign. The same applies to the civilian ^ 
population which has had the opportunity to express 
its sentiments. 

2) One cannot deny that the situation thus 
created will result in a deep division, which cannot 
help but become worse, between the Belgians remaining 
in the country and those abroad. In addition, the 
enemy will find excellent encouragement for a policy 
which will divide Belgium, a division for which the 
presence of the King constitutes a most powerful 
obstacle, an obstacle v/hich must not be weakened. 

3) In conscience, we are of the opinion that in 
the higher interest of the covmtry, and above all 
personal consideration, the truth should be re- 
established, the union of Belgians reformed, and the 
prestige of the King totally restored. 

i+) Concerning the administration of the country, 
the law of May 10, 1940, authorizes wide delegation of 
power. For the rest, the King being a prisoner of 
war, in principle the procedure of Article SZ of the 
Constitution should be applied. 

After his meeting with Fredericq, Berryer wrote a 

summary of the interview: .. '.£:' ■• ■ 

The primary concern of the chef de cabinet of the 
King was therefore to draw my attention to the error 
contained in the first sentence of Mr. Pierlot's 
statement of May 28 ^,\Aiich accused His Majesty of 
having opened separate negotiations with the enemy. 

I then asked Mr. Fredericq if he could explain to 
me why the King asked to be covered by ministerial 
signature if he did not have a political act in mind. 

The chef de cabinet thought he could explain this 
by the statement that the King had only asked to be 
covered by ministerial signature in the event of some 
indefinite and eventual act which he might be led to 
perform, being separated from his ministers. The King 
even foresaw that a general peace could lead him to 
take a political position as Head of State while his 
ministers, finding themselves in France, in perhaps 
revolutionary or at least difficult circumstances, 
would neither be able to join him nor give him aid. ^5 

^^ Recueil . p. 175. 

'i ' 

w '1 

, .. . , 

I'-'-"' The King's vindication appeared successful. On 
July 21, 1940, the date of the Belgian national holiday. 
Prime Minister Pierlot in an address at Vichy declared: 
"We ardently wish that the thought which dominates all 

Belgians be that of national union around the King. 



'••■■■ t/^:*. 


On December 6, 1940, Spaak sent a note to all the Belgian 

diplomatic and consular agents throughout the world in 

which he reached, among others, these conclusions: 

• - c^ 1) The capitulation of the anny on May 28 was 

. -inevitable. The continuation of the fight would have 
; .' .; led to personal sacrifices out of proportion to the 

• military results then possible. 
r •' 2) The King wished to share the fate of his 

soldiers and his people in order to maintain morale 
and to lessen their suffering. 

3) The King, a prisoner of war, does not govern, 
V r > does not perform any political acts. ) 

6) The Government is forced by circumstances to 
; ,l.,.^'«ct without being able to consult the King") but it ] 

.; ; does not act against the King. The attitude of the J 
V' ;','!; King, a prisoner, and that of the Government in ; '* 

:;■ England, are not contradictory and do not conflict. 

■ Ui;?/ 7) All those who swore the oath of loyalty to i< 

'3 the King should maintain their respect. Today that j 

, it oath implies obedience to the Government. ] 

6) A state of war still exists between Belgium * 

.i and Germany. _.■ ; 

12) The orders of the Government read: .;v^ji 

"For an independent Belgium, for a liberated King." 'rff 

At a conference held in London at Chatam House on February 

14, 1941, Pierlot said J , ; -; '.^^p 

^ Contribution , p. 216. 

IMi* » PP* 242-246. The Government was \ 

officially re-established in London on October 24, 1949. J 


The Belgian army, during the first days of May, 
1940, was with its back to the sea, isolated, 
practically surrounded and in such position that ' » - 
defeat was inevitable. That outcome was delayed 
from day to day, from hour to hour to the limit of 
all that was possible. The decision to stop the fight 
was only taken after repeated warnings to the 
commanders of the neighboring armies, without mention- 
ing the information personally given to the Allied 
governments. ... We knew that the King obeyed what 
he considered to be his duty. . . . True, we could 
not share his way of interpreting the national 
interest. ... In actual fact, since the events that 
took place in May and in spite of the difficulties 
and the dangers of equivocal interpretation to which 
his presence in occupied Belgium could lead, the 
position of the King has remained clear and simple: 
the King is a prisoner of war; he has constantly 
refused to do anything which would contradict that 
state of affairs. He has refused to exercise his 
prerogatives as Sovereign under the control of the 
invader because that function must be free, otherwise 
it threatens to compromise the principle of national 
independence. The attitude of the King is a permanent 
protest against the fait accompli . That attitude is 
a symbol and source of encouragement; more and more 
it becomes the center of all Belgian resistance.^® 

On May 10, 1941, in a radio broadcast from London, Spaak 
told the Belgians to "close ranks around the prisoner- 
King. He personifies the battered Fatherland. Be as 
faithful to him as we here are."^^ In July, 1941, the 
Government-in-£xile in London published "Belgium, th» . 
Official Account of What Happened, I939-I94O." The text 
concluded with a tribute to the King I 


J. Wullus-Rudiger, Les Origines Internationales 

>. du Drame Beige de 1940 (Bruxelles: Editions Vanderlinden, 

1950), p. 277. 

49 , 
•^ Contribution , p. 254 • 


As he had proclaimed in order to strengthen the 
courage of his soldiers at the height of the battle, 
its Commander-in-Chief has since linked up his 
future with that of the Army. By his dignified 
attitude, in the captivity to which he has condemned 
himself. . . he has shown himself to be the in- -« 
carnation of a people which will not accept servitude. 

On August 3, 1941 » Spaak commented in a speech given in 


Last year the King was in conflict with his 
Government J those Belgians who remained in Belgivun 
were at loggerheads with those outside. All those 
clouds, all those misunderstandings have been 
dissipated. « . . Now justice has been rendered to 
the army and to the King and to the country. 51 

Spaak reiterated these sentiments in a private letter to 

Leopold written on November 21, 1941: 

We admire the attitude of the King in occupied 
Belgium, and we know what comfort he must bring to 
his compatriots. vVe often think of Your Majesty, 
of his difficulties, of his burdens, of his painful 
isolation. . . . Our feelings for the King today are 
what they were before May 10, a respectful and - 
loyal devotion. We trust that Your Majesty is 
confident in us. 52 ^ 

It seemed that at least by late 1941 unity had been restored 
between the Government and the King. • ■ 

The Government-in-£xile 

In spite of the reapproachment of June 2, 1940, ■ 
between the King and the Government-in-Exile, the two 
parties moved along entirely separate paths throughout 



Wullus-Rudiger, op. cit . . p. 27S. 





the remaining war-years. It appears that it was after 
the reapproachment that Leopold decided upon his ■ 
'PPolicy of Laeken" which some called open collaboration 
with the occupant and others more accurately called ■ 
political opportunism. The meeting at Berne on June 2, 
1940, seemed to have indicated that the King was willing 
to support the position of the Government which declared 
that Belgium was still at war with Germany and would , 
continue to be so until the final victory of the Allies. 
But events after the fall of France and during the summer 
of 1940 caused the King to reconsider and to plan for the 
future in accordance with what he believed would be the 
greater good of his country. Contrary to his position 
stated to the Government's representative at Berne, ■ 
Leopold no longer identified this good exclusively with 
the Allied cause; his policy by the fall months of I94O 
had been reshaped to make the most of victory Irrespective 
of who eventually might win the war, i.e., either the 
Allied or the Axis powers. 

. Leopold's change of policy came about as a result 
of the confusion into which the Governiaent-in-Exile waa 
thrown by the fall of France. When the Government left 
Belgium on May 25, I94O, it did so in order that it might 
be able to continue the war alongside Belgium's allies, 
France and Britain. After the capitulation of Belgium on 
May 28 the Government-in~Exile, at that time in Paris, 


53g^cuell, pp. 190-191. 


declared that the King was no longer able to reign and that 

the Government was assuming full executive authority. . ; 'i?4 

',■■"• ' ' " ■■' ^ 

■ r:;u<;- On JUne 2, 194C, the British government recognized '' 

the Government-in-Exile as the only legitimate Belgian •'■ 


government. Surely this recognition was accorded by the ' 


British because they took the Government at its word that 

Belgium would fight with the Allies until the final ':. i 

victory. Yjt, after the fall of France, the Government 

sought to treat with the Germans. The Ministers later 

denied this, but denial could not remove evidence. On 

June 18 the Belgian government sent the following telegram 

to the Argentine minister at Berne: — 

.'',.i>r ■ The Belgian government, reunited at Bordeaux, 
' requests the Argentine legation in Switzerland, 
f through the intermediary of the Minister, Mr. Alberto 

^ Palacios Costa, personally to inform the Belgian 
. .; Minister in Switzerland so that he might inform 

■ Brussels of the position which it ^he Government- i 
r; in-Exile/ intends to take at the cessation of 

i hostilities in France. ■' 

The Government states: (1) that it came to France 
'r in order to continue the war alongside of its 
' Lvt guarantors; ^t is significant that at this point, 

the Government failed to speak of Britain and France 
;•';.■ >i as "allies" but as "guarantors," the word Leopold 

■ had used all along^^/ (2) that the French aimiy has 
■<)? stopped fitting; (3) that, under the circiimstances, 

the Belgians in France should avoid any act of 1 

,;.;,'. hostility against the Germans; ik) that the fate of ■! 

.. ^ the Belgian officers and soldiers shovild be identical J 
V,\'\':^ ^o that of the French officers and soldiers; (5) that 

the civilian population and the refugees should 
^. ' scrupulously carry out the instructions which are 

given to them; (6) that the Government will resign as 

soon as the fate of the Belgian soldiers and refugees 

in France shall have been settled in order to 
" facilitate probable peace negotiations between 

Germany and Belgium. 53 


On June 19 a similar message was sent to the papal nuncio 
in Switzerland who forwarded it to Laeken through the i 

Belgian minister, the Comte d'Ursel. Then on June 26 the ' 
Government sent the Viscount Berryer its envoy at the ' 

meeting with Fredericq at Berne on June 2 to Laeken with a 
letter to Leopold from Prime Minister Pierlot which in- 
cluded the following information: ' '"- 

To sum up, we think that there are two urgent : 

things to do: (1) to negotiate with the Germans the 
return of Belgian soldiers and civilians now fovind 
J in France; and (2) to negotiate with the Germans the 
conditions of an armistice or of a convention con- 
cerning Belgium. : 

Regarding the latter point, since we are badly 
informed, we wish to do nothing without receiving the J 
advice of the King. If the King thinks that it would ^ 
be useful and possible to form a new government, 
naturally we are ready to give our resignation. 54 

Other evidence also points to the Government's 

decision to resign. On June IS it made arrangements for 

the governing of the Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi for 

the duration of the war. It sent Albert De Vleeschauwer, 

the Minister of Colonies, to London, empowered to act 

officially in the name of the Government-in-Exile in . 

matters concerning the Congo and Ruanda-Urundi. At that 

time, he was no longer considered to be a part of the • • 

Govemment-in-Exile but was officially entitled 

"Administrator-General of the Belgian Congo and Ruanda 

Urundi" with unique and sovereign power over these areaa. 


Ibid ., p. 193. 

- -A ■•:.-. . 

One of the Ministers, Marcel-Henri Jaspar, fell out with 

the Government over this decision and the general 

decision to end the war and went on his own to London 

hoping to rally the Belgians to continue the fight. On 

Jvuie 23 he spoke on the radio from London: 

The press agencies have announced that the Belgian 
government. . . has determined that it is necessary 
to end the war. That is false. The war will continue 
until the final victory. I have arrived in London 

. with that end in view, and I await the ministers who 
want to join me. In the meantime, I shall continue 

; the war. I am no one's prisoner. If necessary, I 
will exercise by myself the responsibility of power»55 

On the 24th, the Government-in-Exile repudiated 

Mr. Marcel-Henri Jaspar. . . has abandoned his 
post and his administration without warning his 
colleagues. He left for London for reasons of 
personal convenience. He was not charged with any 
mission by the Government. The Government absolutely 
disavows all statements made by Mr. Marcel-Henri 
Jaspar whom his colleagues consider no longer a part 
of the Government . 5° 

The above quotations were given to show that the 
Government seemed to have every intention of treating with 
the Germans and then resigning. Yet it did not do so. 
Again, as with Leopold's change of mind from May 25 to 
May 26 regarding his decision to treat with the invader, 
one cannot be sure of the Government's reasons. Spaak 
said in an address to Parliament in July, 1945, that 

-^^ Contribution , p. 204. 


between the 17th and the 25th of June, 1940, the members 
of the Government changed their mind many, many times, 
one moment making plans to leave for England in order to 
continue to fight, the next moment ready to end it all. 
Although the Government denied it, perhaps Leopold* a 
decision made known to Berryer on July 4, I94O, contri- 
buted to the Government's decision to continue the war; 
"The King's position has not changed. The King takes 
part in no political act and does not receive poll- ^.^;.. 
ticians."--^' On July 20, 1940, the German occupant in 
Belgium stated that it would not allow members of the 
exiled Government to return to their country. Perhaps 
this, too, encouraged the decision to carry on. - 

Whatever the reason for doing so, the Government- 
in»Exile established itself at Vichy in July, I94O, but 
it was able to prolong its existence for only a month. 
On August 1, the Bank of France refused henceforth to 
honor checks drawn by the Belgian government. Moreover, 
the Germans had ordered Petain to end diplomatic re- 
lations with countries ixnder German occupation. As a 
consequence on August 20, 1940, the Belgian government 
resigned and notified Leopold: 

The Belgian Government no longer has at its free 
disposal the funds belonging to the State which are 
indispensable to assure the payment of salary and 


Recueil . p. I93, 


provisions of the army and of the refugees. ... 
In this situation, the Ministers declare that it 

, is impossible for them to fulfill their task and 
to continue the exercise of their functions. . . • 

Belgians: you will soon be reunited. You have 
known tragic times, submitting to the horrors of 
war and the miseries of exile. Our country, like 
each of us, has been deeply hurt. However, do not 
lose courage or hope. Remain united around the King, 
Bjonbol of^an independent country. Long Live 

^ I Belgium I -^^ r ,^, ^ . 

The members of the Government separated. Some went to 
England; Pierlot and Spaak went to Spain with plans 
eventually to reach the United States. These plans ., 
miscarried, and in October they, too, were in London. On 
October 22, 1940, the Government -in-Exile was re- 
established in the British capital and remained there for 
the duration of the war. It was accepted as a full 
partner in the Allied camp and entered into international 
agreements which bound Belgium. The Government's most 
important international commitment resulted from the 
signing of the Washington Agreement on January 1, 1942, 
which formed the war-time coalition against the Axis 


powers and which served as the first significant landmark 
in the evolution of the United Nations. , ,, 

The Government contributed as much as it could to 
the Allied effort. At the end of October, it called into 
the armed forces all eligible Belgians in the United 
States and Canada and in all other countries not occupied 

^ Ibid . . pp. 215-216. 

■ - lod 

by the enemy. 59 Belgians fought together in special units 
of the British armed forces. A section beige was created 
in the Royal Navy, and the warships placed under Belgian 
command were eventually to form the nucleus of a post- 
war Belgian navy. Though Belgium had disbanded its navy 
before the war, she did contribute thirty -four merchant 
ships to the Allied cause. The small Belgian air force 
had been destroyed either on the ground or during the 
invasion, but the air force personnel which managed to 
reach Britain was integrated into the R.A.F. in small 
units. '* 

The Congo was administered by the Government in 
London. It contributed about seven million pounds 
sterling to the war effort during the first year alone, 
and its troops fought along with the British against the 
Italians in Africa. 

In February, 1941, the Belgian government, through 
its ambassador to the United States, Georges Theunis, 
moved to secure more funds by obtaining a writ of attach- 
ment from the Supreme Court of New York against $260,000,000 
worth of gold being held in the Federal Reserve Bank of New 
York for the Bank of France. The French government 

"After the war, Belgians who had ignored the call 
were prosecuted as deserters. Among those sentenced was 
Walter Baels, the brother of the Princess de Rethy and the 
brother-in-law of King Leopold. •% 


appealed the writ, but the appeal was denied on August 6, 
1942, by the New York Court of Claims. The decision was 
upheld on October 10, 1942, by the New York Court of , ., 
Appeals. As a result, the Government -in-Exile was assured 
funds for Its operations during the war. The Belgians 
contended that $260,000,000 worth of Belgian gold sent to 
Paris before the invasion of Belgiiun had been shipped to 
Dakar by the French authorities despite instructions from 
the Belgian government to transfer the funds from Bordeaux 
to London. Later on, the French, on German orders, ■ » 
returned the gold to France for delivery to Germany. After 
the war it was alleged by a Nazi diplomat on trial at 
Nurenberg that the Germans learned about the Belgian gold 
from King Leopold himself who wanted its recovery. This 
was denied by the pro-Leopold forces who stated that the 
"treasure" mentioned by the German referred not to the 
national gold but to part of the private fortune belonging 
to the Belgian royal family. . , 

As has been shown above, the summer and fall ; 
months of 1940 were a confusing period for both King ■ < ■) 
Leopold and the Government -in-Exile. The Government was 
surely within its ri^ts to make v/hatever decisions it 
thought best, including resignation and capitulation. 
Leopold, on the other hand, believed that he was t 
entitled to formulate and follow a policy he considered 
to be in the best interest of the coxmtry. In this he was 


unwittingly encourai^ed by the indecision and vacilatlon 
of the Government-in-Exlle during the summer of I94O. It 
seemed to Leopold that it was up to him to act in the 
absence of a Government whose members seemed to be wander- 
ing all over Western Europe. These two policies, the 
opportunistic policy of Laeken and that of the Government- 
in-Exlle wholeheartedly supporting the Allies, did not 
change during the war, and except for three occasions, 
there was no contact between Leopold and the Government 
until January, 1944. ?• » , . :■ .- 




./'..-....v.i ... ,; THE ROYAL QUESTION TAKES SI-L'IPE >: .... 

Contacts Between King and Government. I92t.0-l92i.i4. 

From June 2, I92f0, until early January, I92f2f, 
there was no contact between King Leopold III and the 
Government-in -Exile. The Policy of Laeken, which acaae 
claim was passive withdrawal and others claim was active 
opportunism, called for the King's silence. 

On three occasions the Government attempted to 
break through this silence. The first contact was 
sought shortly after the fall of France when it appeared 
that the Government was planning to treat with the Germans. 
On July 26, 1940, Pierlot sent the Viscount Berryer to 
Brussels to inform Leopold and to ask his advice con- 
cerning the Government's intention to open negotiations. 
The Viscount's mission was rebuffed by Leopold's chef- 
de-cabinet . Louis Fredericq, who told Berryer that the 
King would receive no one associated with the Government- 

A second attempt was made late in 192^1 when th© 
Government got word to the King advising him openly to 

^See Chapter III, p. 106, 



oppose the deportation of Belgians to German forced .1 
labor camps. No acknowledgment came from Laeken. 
Finally, toward the end of 1943 when Allied victory seemed 
sure, the Government began to prepare for its return home. 
It was necessary to reach an understanding with Leopold 
not only in regard to the conduct of the war after the 
liberation but also concerning the behavior of the King 
and of his entourage during the occupation. On November 3, 
1943» Pierlot, Spaak, Delfosse, and De Schrijver wrote a 
letter to Leopold. It was carried by Pierlot 's brother- 
in-law, Francois De Kinder, who was dropped by parachute 
into Belgium. De Kinder took the letter to Cardinal Van 
Roey in Malines who delivered it to the King in early 
January, l9kh» 

■ :, • I,. In the letter the Ministers admitted that "after 
the dramatic events of the month of May, I924.O," it would 
be difficult to resume personal contact; nevertheless, 
they expressed their devotion to the monarchy and to the 
King: , . 

For the good of Belgium we all wish that the King 
once again exercise his constitutional prerogatives 
as soen as the occupation has ended; but we also all 
believe that the best way to carry out this objective 
would be for the King to follow the respectful advice 
that we have permitted ourselves to give him. 

They advised the King formally to address the nation " 

immediately after his liberation and inform his subjects: 


Recueil . p. 501- 


(1) that after the capitulation of the troops in Flanders, 
Belgium had never ceased to be at war with Germany and 
that she would continue the war, in accordance with the 
Washington Declaration of January 1, 1942, against 
Germany and Japan until the final victory; and that peace 
would be concluded with these powers and with Italy only 
in agreement with the United Nations; (2) that Belgium 
expected to participate in the political and economic 
reconstruction of the world in close cooperation with the 
Allies; (3) that just sanctions would be meted out to 
Belgians who had collaborated with the enemy; and (1+.) that 
order would be re-established in Belgium on the foundation 
of respect for the Constitution and for public liberty.^ 

The King's answer did not reach London. De Kinder, 
who was carrying the reply, was captuj?ed by the Germans 
and shot. The letter would not have been considered a 
proper response, however, for it satisfied none of the 
Government ♦ s demands : 

The King has never ceased to consider it a duty to 
maintain national independence. The King, following 
the example of his predecessors, has always maintained 
respect for the Constitution. He has never had 
intention of doing it harm. He sees its eventual 
revision only by the will of the people freely ex- 
pressed. The alleged reports which tend to throw 
doubt on these points are completely groundless, and 
whoever is circulating them is committing a crime 
against the dynasty and against Belgiiun. As for the 
rest, since May 28, 1940, the King has strictly 

•^ Ibid .. pp. 500-501. 

Ibid . . pp. 501-502. 

There were two original copies of the Testament, 

one each in French and Flemish, which were given to the 

President of the Cour de Cassation . Mr. Jamar, and to the 

Attorney-General of the Cour de Cassation , lir. Cornll. 

Additional copies were given to Plrenne, Fred^ricq, and to 

the Grand Marshal of the Court. The Testament was to be 

given to whoever was in command at the time of liberation. 

The first person to be presented with the document was 

General Montgomery, the liberator of Brussels. 

■; : . ■■■ ■ ■ ^ .^ ,^ 

114 \ 

'■■.:■ maintained his position as prisoner of war in the 1 

hands of the enemy. He considers it in conformity I 

with the dignity of the Crown and in the interests ' 

of the nation not to depart from this position ,j 

: either directly or indirectly.^ . ; • } 

The Kingts Political Testament , | 

At the time of the liberation of Brussels, i 

September 3$ 1944, the Government had received no further J! 


word from Leopold. On September 9, the day following the 

return of the Ministers to the capital, Pierlot was pre- j 

sented with a memorandum written by the King on January 25, ; 

1944, five months before his deportation to Germany on • 

June ?• The document contained the Sovereign's opinions i 


regarding what he considered to be essential postwar, 

problems. It contained, too, a rationalization of his 

conduct since May 25, I94O, and a demand that the Govern- j 


ment apologize for its attitude toward the King, an 
apology which Leopold said must be made before the Govei^- 
ment would be allowed to resume power. The Ministers 

interpreted the memorandum, which came to be called 


Leopold's Political Testament, as his answer to the letter 

,^^,Ti-- - 

• 115 

delivered in January by De Kinder. It is significant 
that the memorandum was addressed not to the Government- 
In-Exile but to those who would be holding interim power 
after the liberation. It is also significant that there 
was nowhere to be found even the suggestion of contrition. 
On the contrary, the Testament was a docviment written by a 
man convinced that his cause was just. . '. • :^ 
" Leopold prefaced the main body of the document 
with these words: ....,,,, 

Without any real military power, my presence ■ 
abroad would have had only a symbolic value; a few 
ministers sxifficed for this. . . .At the moment when 
the Allies were crushed by overv^elming disaster and 
the enemy exalted by unprecedented military success, 
it was by sharing the adversity of my army and of my 
people that I affirmed the indissoluble vmion of the 
Dynasty and of the State and that I safeguarded the 
interests of the country whatever the outcome of the 
war ." ~ 

The memorandum contained eight sections. The 
first six dealt respectively with the entente between 

Flemings and Walloons, social reorganization, political 

reform, educational reform, military reorganization, and 


Recuell. pp. 502-503. Emphasis added. 

He suggested the creation of a Conseil d*Eta t. 
"The country has need of well-made laws and regulations; 
the citizens have the right to be protected against the 
arbitrariness possible from a government whose powers v^ill 
become more extensive. Ministerial responsibility must 
cease to be an abstract principle fastened to a code; it is 
necessary that it become a legal reality restraining 
ministers whose errors would compromise the interests of 
the state." ( Recueil . p. 503 . ) 



the maintenance of order. Only the last two sections are 
important for the royal question. Section seven was 
entitled: "The Necessary Reparations." In it Leopold • 
recalled the days immediately following the capitulation 
(from May 2$ to June 2, 1940) and alluded to the meeting 
at Liirogea. 

Those accusers who, in their obstinate blindness, 
have besmirched the honor of our soldiers and of their 
Commander-in-Chief, have caused Belgium incalculable 
harm which will be difficult to repair. One could 
search vainly throughout history for a similar example 
of a government gratuitously heaping opprcbrixim on its 
Sovereign and on the national flag. The prestige of 
tne Crown and the honor of the country are opposed to 
allowing the authors of these words to exercise any 
authority whatsoever in liberated Belgiiim until they 
have repudiated their error and made complete and 
solemn reparation. 

The nation would not understand or allow the 
Dynasty agreeing to associate its actions with the 
men v/ho inflicted an affront which the world witnessed 
with astonishment." 

Section Eight was entitled: "The Foreign and Colonial 
Policy of Belgium": 

As far as her international status, I demand In 
the name of the Constitution that Belgivim be re- 
established in her complete independence and that 
she accept engagements or agreements — of no matter 
what kind — with other states in full sovereignty 
only and for ample consideration. 

I intend also that no threat be made to those ' 
ties v/hich unite the colony with the motherland. 

In addition, I recall that under the terms of 
the Constitution, a treaty is valid only if it bears 
the signature of the King. 9 


Recueil . p. 506. 

- Ibid . . p. 507. 


The Government's letter dated November 3, 192+3, 
and Leopold's Political Testament form the keystone of 
the royal question. Before we examine their implications, 
however, let us recall certain facts. There had been no 
definitive interpretations of or amendments to Articles 
63 and 64 since the adoption of the Belgian Constitution 
in 1630. Political reality in the form of an evolved 
concept of parliamentary government and ministerial 
responsibility, both resulting from universal suffrage and 
the growth of disciplined political parties, was no longer 
congruent with the letter of the Constitution. Yet 
evolution toward full ministerial responsibility had 
actually retrogressed between 1935 and igi+O, that is, be- 
tween the accession of Leopold III and the beginning of ,. .' 
World War II. If this was not true in theory, it was true 
in practice. In short, Leopold had been politically : v^ '■ 
active during the years preceding the war, an activity 
forced in part by the inability of the parliamentary 
system to cope with political and economic crises. ^^ 

Under Articles 63 and 6k a dispute between the 
monarch and the cabinet would be resolved in the follow- 
ing manner. If the monarch remained adamant in his 
refusal to consider an opinion of his government, the 
cabinet would offer its resignation. The Parliament would 
then be called upon to settle the dispute, or, if not • 

See Chapters I and II. 


^'"^ ■ lid 

Parliament, then upon Its dissolution, the electorate. If j 
Parliament repudiated the Government, the King would emerge '■ 
victorious; if, on the other hand. Parliament supported 
the Government, the King would be repudiated. While . .•■■ ] 

legally he could not be forced to abdicate (Article 63 1 

assures the inviolibility of the person of the king) his | 
effectiveness as monarch would cease, making voluntary 
abdication the only logical alternative. \' » ..•: ' 

. ■ , On May 25 when the Government and the King 
separated, each thought it had legality on its side. Had 
circumstances been normal and Parliament been in session 
or been able to meet, the dispute would have been settled 
by the legislature. This was not the case, howeve-. The 
Government proclaimed itself to be the sole executive 
power and determined that the capacity of the King as r. .. 
reigning monarch had come to an end. Its actions would ; . 
be Judged by Parliament when that body was next able to 
Bit officially.-''^ . ..,.■•. 

In the letter written in November, l9i+3, and 
delivered in January, 1944, the Government presented its 
demands to Leopold. It asked him to repudiate those about 
him whose conduct during the occupation smacked, if not of 
collaboration, at least of opportiinism. The Government 
did not revive the controversy over the capitulation. It 


The reader will remember that the session at 
Limoges on May 3I, 1940, was not official. 

" ' 119 

did, hovrever, ask Leopold to declare that he had never 
doubted the outcome of the conflict and to admit that ■■•.;,•• 
Belgium and Germany had been at war since May 10, 1940, 
and still remained so. 

\7hat would have been accomplished if Leopold had 
agreed to the terras of the Government? First, it would 
have forced Leopold to repudiate the Policy of Laeken. 
Second, by forcing Leopold »s acquiescence, it would have 
established the supremacy of the cabinet, deteriaing once 
and for all how future disputes between sovereign and 
cabinet would be settled. ' ' ■ ; ■■•'•. -• 

Leopold refused to comply. He did more: he ' 
challenged the Government's position as of May 25, 1940. 
Thus Leopold pitted his entire concept of the proper 


After 1945, the defenders of King Leopold 
characterized the Policy of Laeken as one of passive • " 
withdrawal. The Report published by the commission 
instituted by the King to dociiment his defense took this 
position. This interpretation appears faulty. The logic 
of his argument rests on the Policy's characterization 
as active opportiinism, attentiume . a wait-and-see attitude 
designed to make the most of victory irrespective of who 
the victor woiild be. As of September, 1944, it appeared 
that Leopold intended to base the rationalization of his 
war time behavior on this premise. These words in the 
Testament are significant: "... I safei^xiarded the 
interest of the country whatever the outcome of the war ." 
(Recueil. p. qoT. Emphasis added.) Circumstances after 
Leopold's liberation forced him to change his tactics and 
base his defense on a policy of innocent withdrawal, v/e 
shall see in a later chapter how this defense forced a 
strained interpretation of facts and how logical the inter- 
pretation would have been had it been designed to accommo- 
date attentisme. 



conduct of the war and his behavior during the occupation 
against that of the Government. But by doing so, did he 
not deny the Government's claim as the sole executive 
and the Government ^s announcement of his inability to reign 
on May 2S, I94O? Leopold thought not. He interpreted the 
Government's request for permission to enter into peace 
negotiations with the Germans in July, I940, as the re- 
moval of the stiPsna of the moral inability to reign pro- 
claimed at Limoges. In other words, he considered himself 
unable to reign only because of the fact of occupation, 
:, but insisted that he was still the Sovereign. The final 
statement in the Testament attacked the very legality of 
the Government-in-Exile as the sole executive : »»In 
addition, I would like to emphasize that under the terms 
of the Constitution, a treaty is valid only if it bears 
the sigTiature of the king."^^ j^ ^^^^^ ^^^^ ^^^ Leopold 
attempted to make two points: first, that the Washington 
Declaration of January 1, 1%2, had no legal basis because 
it lacked his signature; second, and much more important, 
he was implying that the Cabinet did not exercise ex- 
elusive executive authority, a claim which constituted a 
direct challenge to its legality. 

Ey taking this position, Leopold wanted to restore 
the relationship which had existed between him and his r 


Kecueil. p. 507. 

'■.S.~ •*. 


Government on May 25, 1940. He wanted to force a choice 
between his policy and that of his ^iovernment. His 
strategy was clever. He had composed the Testament in 
January, 1944, five months before his deportation. He 
reasoned that at the time of the liberation he would be 
away from Belgiiim as a prisoner while his people were free. 
His critics say he solicited his own deportation in order 
to insure his absence. He knew that the most pressing 
problem facing Parliament would be the fate of the King. 
He knew, too, that the Government-in-Exile would be re- 
turning. It was essential, however, that the Government 
not resume power automatically. Leopold tried to achieve 
this in two ways. First, the Testament was addressed not 
to the Government-in-Exile, but to vrtioever would hold " 
interim power. Second, he demanded that the Government 
apologize before being allowed to resiuae its authority. 
If the Ministers apologized, such action would accomplish 
for the authority of the King what Leopold ♦s agreement to 
the terms of the Government would have accomplished for the 
later » 8 authority. If the Government did not apologize. 
Parliament would have to give its verdict. Thus, Leopold 
Awaited the vindication of his position. 

Leopold ♦s strategy failed. The Government accepted 
the challenge implicit in the Testament. Pierlot gave an 
account of the Government »s actions since May 10, 1940, 
and asked Parliament to judge a stewardship justified by 

victory. On September 19, l9hk. Parliament gave the • < .. 
Government an overwhelming vote of confidence. While 
sanctioning the Government's war policy, however. Parlia- 
ment did not censure the Sovereign. The face-saving ->' • u 
possibility of avowing the legislature's pronouncement was 
still open to Leopold when his liberation would free him 
for a decision. Until this could happen. Parliament ••• 
elected Leopold's brother. Prince Charles, to act as N; • 
Regent. The King was declared to be unable to reign as a 
result of enemy action. 

Three factors explain Leopold's failure. First, 
the psychology of victory caused the laurels to be placed 
upon those who appeared never to have doubted Allied 
success. Second, Belgium had become a member of the 
United Nations. To have supported Leopold's attentisme . 
and to have supported his policy of national independence 
set forth in the Testament would have meant a repudiation 
of those countries v^ich had been responsible for 
Belgium's liberation, not only the original guarantors, 
but also the United States and the Soviet Union. Third, ■ 
the extreme right-wing elements (the Flemish Nationalists 
and the Rexists) had been discredited by the outcome of 
the war. In September, 1944, Parliament leaned heavily to 
the Left whose philosophy was opposed to a strong •' 
sovereign. These factors were exacerbated by the regional 
dichotomy. The Left drew its strength from Wallonia and 


Brussels, the Right from Flanders. The argviments for and 
against the King became infected with the elements of 
sectional animosity. To this was added the circumatanc© 
that rfallonia had, from the beginning, been syTnpathetic to 
the Allied cause, not because of its intrinsic Justice but 
because "Allied" and "French" were synonymous terms. 
Attentisme. to the Walloon, was not a national policy; it 
was automatically pro-German because it was not pro-French. 

The Government's strategy, on the other hand, had 
so far been successful. Following the analysis presented 
earlier, the only logical action left for Leopold would ' 
be abdication, if, at his liberation, he persisted in 
championing the Testament. After his liberation in May, 
1945, however, Leopold did not recant and refused to follow 
the course of abdication suggested by the Government. The 
result of his refusal was the indictment presented to 
Parliament by Achille Van Acker on July 20, 1945 . If we 
carry the above analysis to its logical conclusion, this 
indictment and the five-year controversy which followed were 
unavoidable. The King had lost the battle for his vindi- 
cation and with it he had to abandon his conception of 
monarchical power. But he refused to accept defeat on the 
issue of the monarchy* s role, and this intransigence led to 
his enforced abdication. 

It cannot be denied that Leopold had acted for the 
good of Belgium in the sense that he meliorated her 


treatment under occupation, yet he was now caught in a 
moral dilemma. He could have spared Belgium the years of 
anguish brought about by the royal question. He could have 
done so by sacrificing himself "for the greater good of 
Belgium*'; in short, he could have abdicated in I924.5. But 
his sacrifice would have been more than personal and would 
not have left untouched the royal prerogatives of his " ' 
successors. He would have sacrificed an entire concept of 
kingship in which concept lay the privilege of weighing 
the good and the bad. By implementing this privilege to 
its fullest and by abdicating he would have destroyed at 
the same time the privilege which had allowed him to make 
the decision. 1 

The Battle Lines Form 

As the Allied armies pushed deeper into Germany 
and as the time of Leopold's liberation approached, 
sentiment in Belgium moved toward abdication. V'/ithin the 
coiintry itself, sentiment was divided along religious, 
ethnic, and geographic lines. Generally speaking, the 
Flemings, the great majority of whom were Catholic, in- 
sisted upon Leopold's unconditional resximption of authority 
while the Walloons and the people of 1 ' a ggl ome r a t i on 
bruxelloise (the Brussels metropolitan area) sought his 
abdication. In Parliament, on the other hand, majority 
opinion was anti-Leopold. On February 12, 1945, Pierlot 
resigned ag prime minister and was succeeded by Achille 



Van Acker, a Socialist, who created a new cabinet with 
ministers coming from the four major parties. Although 
there were six Catholic ministers out of a total of 
eighteen the shift in premiership reflected the Lefist bias 
in Parliament. The anti-Leopold Liberal-Socialist- 
Communist bloc outweighed the pro-Leopold Catholic Right. ^^ 
4 During the first week of ^lay, 1945, the political 
battle lines were fornaed."^" Three out of the four major 
parties maintained these lines until the end of the royal 
affair. Only the Liberals changed from a policy which 
allowed the King personally to decide his fate to one which 
called for his effacement (a euphemism meaning abdication). 


Only one member of the war cabinet was a minister 
in the Van Acker government— Paul -Henri Spaak who remained 
as Minister of Foreign Affairs. 


The composition of the legislature in 1939 was 
as follows: ., . : . 

Party Chamber 

Catholic 73 

Socialist 64 

Liberal 33 

Flemish Nationalist 17 

Communist 9 

Rexist 4 

Independent 9 





Following the 
war, the extreme 
groups , the 
Rexists and the 
Flemish Nation- 
alists were 
outlawed . 

"The Belgian Crisis," News From and the Belgian 

Con£o, Vol. V, No. 23, July 21, I945, p. 174 . 

3 6 

Public opposition to King Leopold had begun 
earlier, however. On May 26, I945, the Minister of the 
Interior made a confidential report to Van Acker giving the 
origins of this opposition primarily among the Communists 


. 126 

The SocialiBt Party and the Communist Party demanded ; 
abdication. The Catholic Party would settle for nothing 
less than full resumption of monarchical authority. The 
Federation Generale du Trava il de EelgJnu^ . which grouped 
the Socialist and Communist trade unionists, followed the 
direction of those parties. The Confederation des ,:.;:,, 
Syndicate Chretiens voted with the Catholic party. The 
rank and file of the Ligue Democratiaue Eel^a . the Catholic 
workers' association which included Catholic trade unions, 
cooperatives, and mutual societies. Catholic youth groups, 
and women's organizations, was split in its support for 
Leopold; but the official position of the organization was 
like that of the Catholic party."'"''' 

On May 7, I945, King Leopold III was liberated by 
the American 7th Army; he was found at Strobl, east of;,, 
Salzbourg, in Austria. The following day, both Robert 
Gill on, the President of the Belgian Senate and Franz Van 
Cauwelaert, the President of the House of Representatives, 

and the Walloon Separatists, extremist groups advocating 
either v/alloon autonomy or annexation to France. Recueil 
pp. 5i<-6-56l. r : :'-"" 


This phenomenon in the Ligue indicates that 
among working-class Catholics there v s considerable 
opposition to King Leopold. This was due partly to the 
fear encouraged by Socialist propaganda that Leopold's 
return would bring in its wake a loss of many social and 
economic privileges for which the lower classes had 
struggled so bitterly. 


eent telegrams of official greeting to the King, but they 
received no acknowledgment from him. On May 9» a dele- 
gation including Prime Minister Van Acker and the Prince 

Regent, left Brussels for Austria. During the three 

days of conference with the King, Van Acker informed '/■• 
Leopold of the positions already taken by the most promi- 
nent political, labor, and ethnic groups. He added that 
the wartime resistance forces which commanded great "■ -' 
respect and affection among most Belgians violently opposed 
him, and he stressed that the Sovereign's return would ^ 
provoke serious national division. However, the Prime 
Minister suggested to Leopold that, before making a de- 
cision, it would be advisable for him to consult other 
political personalities. ' ' ■ '•■''■ ... ■;. • 

/ '.. ' Leopold clearly saw the implication: • ,,., . ■ i. ;■ 

■ ■■ /^,In short, the Ministers showed that the situation 
was very bad. They prefer that the King abdicate, 
but they do not dare take responsibility for it. 
They want the King to decide for himself. And so 
r:'\ that no responsibility could be imputed to them, they 
suggested that the King seek the advice of others as 
:. well. -'■9 

■ -1 ci 

The Socialist Prime Minister was accompanied by 
^ • a Catholic, Communist, and Liberal minister in addition to 
" Mr. Spaak, also a Socialist. The Prince took with him his 

private secretary, de Staercke, and Leopold's chef du 

cabinet . Louis Fred^ricq. 

• ^ %ecueil . p. 537. ^ , ., . , . ^ T ■■ 



On May 12 Leopold got sick. It is not unlikely that the 
illness was legitimate, but it is undeniable that it was 
convenient. Leopold wrote his brother that his state of 
health prevented him from returning directly to Belgium. ^^ 

By June 5, 1%5, the King was sufficiently recovered 
to summon Van Acker. It should be observed at this point 
that the Prime Minister was a clumsy politician. Even 
today there is general agreement that his selection as 
premier was unfortunate. His conduct of the negotiations 
with Leopold was inept, his lack of finesse delayed them 
unreasonably and deepened the bitterness surrounding them. 
Van Acker could not have avoided recognizing the dangerous 
game then being played between the Government and the 
King: the Government wanted to force Leopold ♦s abdication 
without spelling it out in ten ugly letters while the King 
obviously was maneuvering for time. Yet Van Acker, at the 
second meeting, while informing Leopold of the growing 
opposition to him not only within Belgium but also among 
Belgium's war time Allies, added at the same time: "As 
for me, I»ll go along with the King. If the King returns, 
I accept to continue my duties, but the Communists, the 

Socialists, and the Liberals who form part of the govern- 

ment will resign." 


Ibid ., p. 53d. 


Ibid., p. 566. This was indeed an unusual state- 
ment considering that Mr. Van Acker himself was a Socialist. 



Because of Van Acker »s ambiguous behavior, Leopold 
postponed his decision until the third meeting with the 
, Frlme Minister, June 14-15- It was decided between them 
that Leopold would return to Brussels on the 18th. The 
King»s itinerary was drawn up, and a speech from the throne 
as well as a radio address to his subjects was drafted by 
Leopold and approved by Van Acker. ^^ ;..;;, 

When the Prime Minister returned to Brussels on 
June 16 and announced these totally unexpected arrange- 
ments to his Ministers, he forced the Government into an 
obvious but unavoidable course of action— resignation. ■ •, 
In explaining their decision, the Cabinet stated in a ■;'-.■ 
joint communique: 

>^^^4?'%^°''!^^®^^ *^°®^ ^°^ ^^^^ *^o t^ke responsi- 
bility for the political events which will inevitably 
result in Belgium from the moment the King returns, 
under these circumstances, it has submitted its 
• resignation to the Regent specifying that it would 
be impossible for it to carry out current business 
from the moment the King returned to Belgium, 
, current business including inevitably the maintenance 

wLho iJ^'^r vf ^""^ political responsibility for the 
;^, words of the King. 

. . The Government insists most strongly that the 

King form a government before his return to Belgium. ^^ 

The Government, in order to carry out the 

strategy threatened by Van Acker»s blunder, was forced to 

act in a manner considered by many to be unconstitutional. 

It refused to maintain order at home should the King 


Ibid . . pp. 568-580. 


Ibid . . p. 581. 



' ' -■■ ^ ,: 130 

return, and at the same time tried to make this return 
impossible. The King could not function without a govern- 
ment, yet the Government knew that he would be unable to 
form another. The Socialists and the Communists were 
committed to his abdication and would refuse to form part 
of a projected cabinet. The Liberals, who might have been 
persuaded to act favorably toward the King under their 
former policy of allowing him personally to decide his 
fate, on June 18 came out officially for effacement . or, • 
in other words, abdication.^ The Catholics were not , ;, 
strong enough to form a single-party, majority cabinet. 
• ..-.. In spite of these odds, Leopold worked to create 
a government, and from Jvine Id until July 7 met with 
politicians of every complexion, members of the bar, 
businessmen, the high clergy, educators, and members of 
the military. On Jime 22 he acknowledged the congratula- 
tory telegrams which Gillon and Van Cauwelaert had sent 
to him on May 8, the day of his liberation. The failure 
of this belated attempt to court the legislature and the 
advice he received from those who had traveled to 


Ibid . . p. 583. On this same day, June 18, the 
F.G.T.B. threatened a general strike if Leopold shoxild 


Van Acker refused to attempt to form a govern- 
ment as he had promised the King on June 15. In a note to 
the King dated June I9, Van Acker counselled abdication. 
Recueil . pp. 579-581. 




St. Wolfgang*^" forced the King to admit that he could not 
create a new government. Still he refused to abdicate. 

' Contact with the old Government was resumed. From 
July 8 until July 14 the members of the Cabinet met with 
King Leopold. This time, however, the Ministers threatened 
a parliamentary debate unless the King agreed to abdicate, 
a debate which would expose to the nation the nature of 
Leopold's war policy and his behavior during the occupaticn. 
On July 11 Leopold countered with the suggestion that a 
commission of three ministers be created to examine his 
record. He promised to open his dossiers to those whom 
the Government would designate. But the Government's mood 
was now beyond compromise. Abdication was the only 
solution it would accept. Leopold refused. After a 
meeting during the night of July 13-14 with his mother. 
Queen Elizabeth, and his brother, the Regent, King Leopold 
Announced his decision in a letter written to the Regent 
on the 14th: 

The Constitution proclaims that all power comes 
from the nation. The nation wishes that Parliament, 
which is the legal incarnation of national sovereignty, 
be re-elected every four years. 

The disequilibrium which circtimstances have es- 
tablished between the Parliament and the nation does 
not pennit me, at this moment, to discern the will of 
the country. Therefore, before making a definite 
decision, I shall wait until regular elections have 
re-established the harmony which should exist between 


On May 18, 1945, Leopold moved from Strobl to a 

villa on Lake St. V\folfgang in Austria. 


the composition of the legislative/ Houses and the 
political opinion of the people whom they reflect. 

I have decided to submit to thenimanif estation of 
national sovereignty in the manner prescribed by our 
institutions, but I must solemnly affirm that only 
the national will could lead me to lay down the great 
duty of King of the Belgians with which the nation has 
charged me. . . . In a mood of appeasement, I shall 
not return to the covaitry until a national consultation 
has taken place. 2' 

Leopold displayed a bewildering tenacity. His 
Political Testament had forced Parliament to choose be- 
tween him and the Government-in-Exile, yet when Parliament 
made known ite decision, Leopold refused to consider it a 
legitimate expression of the national will. He chose to 
await the "voice of the people" before considering 
abdication. The Government, on the other hand, had been 
unable to force abdication. Both the approaches used 
against Leopold had failed. The indirect approach, used 
between May 9 and July 7, would have allowed the Sovereign 
to retreat honorably (from the Government's point of view) 
while the threat to expose him made between July 8 and I4 
proved to be ineffective. As a consequence, on July 17, 
the Government took further steps to block the King.^° 

Article $2 of the Constitution reads: "If the 
King is found to be unable to reign, his ministers, after 
having decided upon this inability, immediately convoke 
the /two/ Houses ^f Parliament. The guardianship and 


Recueil, p. 607. 


On July 15, the Government resiimed authority. 



the regency are provided for by the Houses sitting in ■. . 
joint session." ^ On May 2S, 1940, the Government had 

v. ." 

determined that the King was unable to reign, but it 
could not obtain parliamentary approval because of the 
war. The declaration made on May 28 stated that the King 
was unable to reign because of enemy action. On May 31, 
1940, at Limoges, a moral inability was also found to / 
have existed. On September I9, 1944, at the first meeting 
of Parliament following the liberation, the legislature 
approved the policy of the Government, including, ipso 
facto., the declarations concerning the King's inability to 
reign. On May 8, 1945, Leopold's liberation marked the 
end of the inability to reign because of the enemy. The 
King was free but did not return to Belgium because of 
ill health. On July 8, 1945, his health no longer barred 
his return, yet he was unable to do so because the Govern- 
ment resigned, and Leopold found it impossible to form a ' ; 
successor government. 

By mid -July, 1945, the reasons for the "imposeibili- 
^ ty to reign" were hopelessly confused, and there were no 
provisions in the Constitution to aid in removing this 
confusion. The Constitution did not specify when an 
impossibility to r«ign would come to an end. Those who had 


Textes Exacts de la Constitution Belee. de la Loi 
Communale et de la Loi Provinciale (Brussels: E. Guyot, 

1948) , p. 82. 





drawn up the document in 1^30 had not foreseen an ; "i;. 
occasion such as the one that had taken place on May 25, 
1940; they had foreseen only such conditions of impossi- 
bility as sickness or insanity or death. ':?..,.,", -.;., 
•'■";■* On July 19, 1945, Parliament acted to interpret 
Article 62 and passed the following bill: ' ,f 

Sole Article: Since application of Article 82 
has been made, the King does not resume the exercise 
of his constitutional powers until after a deliberation 
of the Houses sitting in Joint session stating that 
the impossibility has come to an end.^^ 

Of the one hvmdred thirty-seven legislators present, 
ninety-nine voted "yes," six voted "no," and thirty-two 
abstained. The law was important not only because it 
solved an immediate problem, but also because it marked 
a step toward the solution of the larger problem epito- 
mized by the royal question — the conflict between 
constitutional tradition and evolving custom. The pro- 
Leopold traditionalists who stood opposed to increased 
parliamentary authority argued that since the Constitution 
provided that the decision to create a Regency originated 
with the government, the decision to dissolve the Regency 
should likewise be taken by the government, irrespective 
of the necessity for parliamentary approval. Senator ' 
Orban (Catholic) commented during the parliamentary debate: 

This projected law will be unconstitutional if. , . 
it modifies. . . the terms of Article 82 of the 


Ibid., p. 82, 



Constitution, ... If the constituent legislators 
had intended to submit to the declaration of the 
two deliberating assemblies the manner in which 
the impossibility to reign should come to an end, 
they would have said so.?l 

To this Spaak answered: ' 

Don*t you find that there is a much greater 
guarantee and proof of our sincerity to say 
that that power which is given to us by the 
Constitution is /in turn/ given by us to all of 
you by a law which interprets or rather executes 
Article BZ of the Constitution. . . . 

I am convinced that this is the true spirit 
of the Constitution. When there is doubt about 
the authority which exists between the several 
branches of power, it is for Parliament to 
decide, after all is said and done. That is the 
spirit of the constitutional and parliamentary 
monarchy to which we are loyal with all our 
hearts which is the only /spirit/ to which we 
are loyal. -^'^^ '';• 

' , \ 

■ 31 

Marcel Vautier, "Droit const itutionnel, 

Lettres du^ Roi. Article 62 de la Constitution. Im- 

possibilite de regner. Comment en determiner la fin. 

Fin de la Rigence. Pouvoirs des Chambres. Principes 

applicables." Revue de 1 'Administration et du Droit 

Administratif . LXX (19/^6). ISS. 

' ■ " "^^ Ibid .. p. Ig6. ' ■ / 


li* '^ 

The law passed on July 19 marked the consti- 
tutional limits beyond which Parliament could not move 
to prevent King Leopold* s return, yet that which he 
represented remained to be destroyed. Consequently, 
Leopold himself had to be "exposed." On July 20, 1945 » 
Prime Minister Van Acker opened the royal question 
to parliamentary debate.-'-' 


-'-'^The Catholic ministers resigned in protest 
against the law passed on July 19, 1945, and against 
the parliamentary debate which would be opened on the 
20th. Carton de iViart, speaking for the Catholics, said 
in Parliament on July 17: "Gentlemen, faced with such 
an extraordinary and serious event, the Catholics, who 
yesterday were a part of the Government, have decided 
that they should offer their resignation, not wanting to 
accept the responsibility for or an association with a 
position which is manifestly unconstitutional. . . . 

[ We believe that the Catholic Ministers could not in 

conscience associate themselves with a position. . . 
which appears to us clearly to be a threat to our consti- 
tutional principles. In effect. Article 66 of our 
charter proclaims that the person of the King is in- 
violable and that his ministers are responsible. By a 
paradox which is a bit monstrous, I do not hesitate to 
say it, the roles are being reversed." ( Contribution . 

r'-' p. i4-l9») 

' In place of this solution. Carton de Wiart 

proposed in Parliament, in the name of the Catholic 
party, that a "national consultation" take place which 
would allow the people to express their opinion. It 
is interesting to observe that the Catholics, who 
declared that the Government's bill and the parlia- 

^ mentary debate were unconstitutional, proposed what was 

W in effect a referendum, considered by their opponents 

to be unconstitutional under the provisions of the 

f' . constitution. 

On July 20, De Wiart»s bill was referred to 
committee. The fate of this bill, which had no influence 
on the debate about to begin, will be considered in a 
later chapter. 






The case against Leopold was argued by his 
opponents during July, 1945 • It was not meant to 
discredit him on constitutional grounds but to destroy 
him politically. The constitutional question raised by 
the Government's letter dated November 3» 1943 » and by 
the King's Political Testament written on January 25» 
19244, had been settled essentially when Parliament 
approved the policy of the Government-in-Exlle on 
September 19 » 1944 • Before that date, the behavior of 
the King was neither constitutional nor unconstitutional j 
it was simply ambiguous. Had the Constitution been clear 
or had the modifications of the Constitution brought about 
by political usage been universally accepted, the royal 
question would never have arisen. One cannot say without 
qualification that under a constitutional monarchy the 
sovereign has no discretion. This may be true in 
Great Britain, in HolD.and, in Scandinavia, but it was not 
true in Belgium before September, 1944* The action of 
Parliament st that time, by ratifying political usage, 





decided ex post facto that Leopold had acted unconsti- 
tutionally, Leopold, however, refused to accept this 
decision, and protected by Article 63 of the Consti- 
tution, resisted the demands for his abdication. 

By July, 1945, the Government had reached its • 
constitutional limits in the conflict with Leopold. The 
only alternative left to the Government to force the Klng»s 
submission to Parliament was political action which wovild 
establish his unfitness, or what the average Belgian 
would call his iramorality. The Government's attack was 
camouflaged with constitutional arguments, but this could 
not disguise its real purpose. The Government's charge 
was simply this: King Leopold III had believed in a 
German victory and proceeded to act as if the war were 
over on May ZS, 1940. 

Leopold's defense, as will be shown in a later 
chapter, was a refutation of the charge— an item by item 
denial of the Government's indictments each of which had 
been designed to elaborate and spell out the details of 
the basic accusation. The type of defense chosen was 
unf ortvmate, but one which could not have been avoided. 
The weight of evidence shows that Leopold did not 
believe that Germany would be victorious, but he did not 
refuse to consider the possibility. He thought that 
Belgium should prepare for this contingency and he acted 
accordingly. Belgium was occupied by the Germans and 

jwtKn.w?*^'^'**^ " 


might continue to be for many years. -^ For Leopold the 
war was neither over nor continuing. This technicality 
seemed unimportant to him. What he knew was that no Bel- 
gian army continued to fight the Germans after Jfay 2S and 
that his nation lay totally subjected to the occupant, 

^ Therefore, let the Government-in-Exile continue to say 

that Belgium was at war. If the Allies should be victori- 
ous, they could not say that Belgium had refused to fight. 
If, on the other hand, the Germans should win, they could 
not say that Leopold had been an active belligerent. In 
retrospect the King's policy came disparagingly to be 
called attentisme — "wait and see" or "wait and profit." 

Leopold did not arrive at this policy at once, nor 

I did he do so with premeditation. Like the Government-in- 
Exile, the King, too, was confused in the months immedi- 
ately following the fall of Belgium and the fall of France. 
From May 25 until June 2, 1940, it appeared that Leopold 
': : was going to form a government in occupied Belgium. It was 
the fear of this that prompted the statements made by the 
Government-in-Exile in Paris on May 26 and in Limoges on 
May 31f 1940. Yet Leopold did not do so. One cannot say 
why conclusively. As earlier chapters have shown, circiun- 
stances played an important role in his decision. As of 

' V *^ ■ 
•i' ■ 

These sentiments were expressed by Leopold to his 
Ministers before the separation and also to Loid Keyes at 
their last meeting on May 27, 1940. (ixecueil, pp. 57-5S. ) 
See also: Documents on German Foreign Policy. 191^-1945 
(Washington, D.C.i U. S. Government Printing Office, 1957 ) , 
Vol, 10, p, 125. 

June 2, 1940, it appeared that Leopold had accepted the 
fact that the war would continue j the meeting at Berne 
seemed to indicate this. But the summer of I94O was cha- 
otic for those who were entrusted with carrying on the war 
(the Govemment-in-Exile), and it was probably during these 
confused months of the Government's indecisiveness that 
Leopold decided upon his policy of attentisme .^ His de- 
fense after 1945 would have been logical and consistent had 
it been geared to the defense of this policy which could 
then have been justified as an alternative to the policy of 
the Government. But Leopold adopted a different kind of 
defense, one that maintained innocence in the face of the 
Government's accusation of complicity. His defense appeared 
weak, however, because he had not in fact maintained an 
attitude of strict political noninvolvement. In the minds 
of many Belgians, this weakness was synonymous with guilt. 
The parliamentary attack against King Leopold was 
made by the prime minister, Achille Van Acker, on July 20, 

^See Chapters III and IV for the discussion of the 
period from May until October, I94O. 

Perhaps Leopold's real mistake was his failure to 
change his policy of attentisme when victory for the Allies 
became certain: "But what is so terrible in the case of 
the King is that at no moment did we see take place in his 
mind a healthy return to the principles which he had es- 
poused in 1940." (Speech delivered by Spaak to Parliament 
on July 25, 1945. Recueil . p. 656.) 

This seems to add weight to the evidence that the 
policy of the King was one of "wait and see" and not one 
based on the belief that Germany would be victorious. Had 
he believed the latter, it would have been to his advantage 
to reverse his position and openly embrace the Allies when 
their victory seemed sure. 


and by the foreign minister, Paul-Henri Spaak, on July Zk 
and 25, 1945* Van Acker preferred the charges while Spaak 
created the climate of prejudice in which these charges 
would grownand mature. In the speech made on July 24, 
Spaak recreated the events between Kay 10 and Kay 3I, I94O, 
and spoke of the apprehension of the Ministers as they 
came to believe that Leopold would treat with the Germans 
and establish a government in occupied Belgium. He said 
that the charges made at Limoges on May 3I, I94O, were 
perfectly reasonable considering the knowledge which the 
Ministers had at that time. Spaak did not say, however, 
that the Government had made its peace with Leopold only 
three days later on June 2, and officially paid homage to 
him the White Paper published in London in I94I, entitled 
Belgium: The Official Accoimt of What Happened. 1Q3Q-1QL.0 . 
In the light of past events, the speech painted an incorrect 
picture, but succeeded in recharging the memories of 
duplicity and suspicion and in reinsinuating the allusion 
to treason. . . > .' 

The Charges 

The charges concerned the following events or 
persons, all in turn related to the basic accusaticn that 
Leopold had believed in a German victory and had acted 
accordingly: (1) the King»s entourage; (2) the note 
written on August 30, 1940, by Louis Fredericq, Leopold* s 
chef de cabinet to d»Ursel, the Belgian minister to 


Switzerland, and to Le Telller, the Belgian ambassador to 
France; and the d»Ursel telegram sent In September, I94O; 
(3) the King's trip to Berchtesgaden in November, I94O; 
ih) the King's visit to Austria; (5) the congratulatory 
telegram to Hitler on his birthday and the telegram of 
f condolence of the King of Italy at the death of Prince 

Amadeo, the Duke d»Aoste; (6) the King's deportation in 
June, 1944; and (?) the King's second marriage, ^v--^.'-: ••''■' 
The entourage.. .When the accusers of King Leopold 
spoke of his entourage, they referred primarily to two 
men, Leopold's private secretary, Count Capelle, and 
Henri de Man, the president of the Socialist party at the 
outbreak of the war, and later a confidant of the King.^ 

Leopold was judged guilty by association with 
De Man. De Man was a socialist and a Utopian idealist who 

Tio^^ .^f'J'^.^^^J''''' ^''°^^ °'^^» ^^ ^" ^^s attached to the 
Defense Ministry for the direction of L'Oeuvre Elizabeth. 
Les Loisirs du Soldat , a welfare organization working among 
members of the armed forces under the patronage of Queen 
kother Elizabeth. He was at the same time a liaison 
?^ rfu'^'^i^ ^ section of the G.H.Q. On May 11, De Man 
asked the King to relieve him of this position so that he 
might work directly with the King. Leopold granted his 
request and placed him in charge of the safety and security 
fL^^v .'^t^'' Mother Elizabeth. De Man remained closely 
attached to the royal household and became a confidant of 

2L . ?• -^^ ^^^ ^® ^^° ^^'^e^ Leopold in drafting the 
official correspondence which the King sent to the King of 
England, to the Pope and to the President of the United 
States explaining the reasons for the capitulation. It was 
he, too, whom Leopold asked to head a new government should 
the Germans allow it under the occupation. 

i ■ 


believed that the power of money had corrupted every 
human institution and that the parliamentary form of 
government was the instrument of this corruption. He 
awaited the transformation which would rid society of both 
evils and restore a just social order founded on the 
dignity of human labor and secured by long-lastlng peace. 
De Man saw that there would be no peace in Europe until 
the conflicts between Franc© and Germany were resolved, 
and he welcomed the Nazi movement as the means by which a 
new Europe would be established. He was not convinced 
that the aovement would be the ultimate constructive force, 


but he was convinced that it would destroy the decayed old 

order. ^ ,,, , ^ ' • 

De Man did not oppose the Germans when they invaded 

Belgium. On the contrary, he told the manbers of the 

Socialist party in a manifesto issue June 2g, 1940? ' 

Do not think that it is necessary to resist the 
, occupant. Accept the fact of his victory and try to 
learn from it the proper lessons in order to create 
the point of departure for new social progress. The 
. war has brought about the collapse of the parlia- 
mentary regime and of capitalist plutocracy in the 
. BO-called democracies. . . . Prepare yourselves to 
enter the ranks of a movement of national resur- 
rection.-' i 

On February 16, 1941, he spoke at a conference in Brussels. 

^Henri De Man, Cavalier Seul. 45 Annees de 
Socialisme europeen . (Geneve: Les Editions du Cheval Aile, 
1948jj passim . 

• ^Recueil . pp. 343-344. 


Here in Belgium the power of the state was be- 
coming weaker and weaker while, on the other hand, 
the power of money increased its strength from day to 
day. The origin of national socialism had its causes; 
that is impossible to deny. It has now replaced out- 
worn things, but in an ultimate sense national 
socialism has still nothing to say. 

I am not a German nationalist, but a Belgian 
socialist, or, if you prefer, a national-socialist 
Belgian. . . . Socialism wants a social order in which 
labor is able to rule and in which the right to work 
can have value for everyone. Often that is not 
possible without an authoritarian state capable of 
destroying the force of money. 

The time of parliamentary government has 
passed ... Democracy is more than a parliamentary 
system. . . . The parliamentary system is only its 
bourgeois form. . . . 

The State must take on a new form. That form 
can only be authoritarian since that characteristic 
goes hand in hand with revolution. . . , After the war 
Europe will have a new form. That is why we admit the 
principle of order and of fulfillment in a unified 
Europe under an authoritarian system. But we should 
not ask that of the Germans. It is necessary that 
it come from Belgians.^ g^ 

The Germans were not willing to accept even such mild 
criticism as De Man^s. In 1942, he was expelled from 
Belgivun and permitted to enter Switzerland, certainly a 
rather mild form of punishment if compared with the treat- 
ment meted out by Germany to those who truly opposed the 

Nasi regime. That De Man was distasteful to the German 

occupant did not preclude, then, the accusation made by 
Belgians that he was a traitor. Surely he was not a 
traitor like Staf Declerck, the chief of the National 
Flemish Movement (the V.N.V.) who looked to the Nazis for 
the creation of an autonomous Flemish state, or like the 

■^^■■" 6 

Ibid ., pp. 346-347 

T 145 

leaders of the V\^alloon Separatists who hoped that the war 
would bring about either Walloon autonomy or the annexation 
of Wallonia to France. These men were violently anti- 
Belgian by being either pro-Fleiaish or pro-Walloon. De Man 
was pro-Belgian, but his xmique and personal "patriotism" 
called for the destruction of those institutions to which 
most of his compatriots were devoted. He vms a traitor 
sui generis . 

The author* a attempt to distinguish among traitors 
has significance for this study. It is not unlikely that 
the idealism which propelled De Man was infectious. 
De Man, too, was driven by a concept of "the greater good 
of Belgium," a principle congenial to Leopold. The King's 
mind probably did not have the breadth or subtlety of 
De Hants, but it is not unreasonable to assume that 
Leopold's belief that Belgium might be able to derive some 
advantage from a German victory was nourished by his 
association with De Man. 

The case against Capelle, and to a lesser degree 
against Frede'ricq, rested on the evidence of letters 
written by them to Raymond De Becker, the pro-German editor- 
in-chief of Le Soir^ during the occupation, and by the 
association of Capelle with Robert Poulet, the editor of the 


Ibid. . pp. 350-360. 


J^f Soir is one of the leading Brussels newspapers. 
It was edited under the occupation by the collaborator. 
De Becker. ' 

pro-German magazine Nouveau journal . On January 9, 1941, 
Capelle wrote to De BeckerJ •" ' -- ' " •'' •- • '•'■''':. 

I had the honor of giving the King your message 
as well as the special edition of Le Soir dedicated to 
Belgian unity. 

His Majesty was touched by this homage and has 
requested me to thank you for it. "5 

On November IS Fredericq wrote to De Becker: "On his saint 
day you had the occasion to address to the King a message 
of loyalty and fidelity. I have the honor of being re- 
quested to express to you and to all those for whom you 
wrote the warm thanks of His Majesty. ' ; ■■ 

:' ' ' Many claim that Robert Poulet, through his magazine 
Souveau Journal, acted as spokesman for the Crown. As we 
shall see in a later chapter dealing with Leopold's defense, 
this charge was denied. After the war Poulet was condemned 
to death for collaboration, but no word came from Leopold 
on his behalf. Pleading for her husband's life, Mra. 
Poulet wrote a letter to the King which gave strong 
evidence of the association between Poulet and Laekeni 

Sire, it is the wife of a writer unjustly con- ' 
demned who writes to you. That writer was condemned 
for having sincerely expressed his thoughts. But as 
you well know, he would never have publicly expressed 
himself under the circumstances if he had not been 
convinced that the King approved his actions. At 
least twenty times during the twenty-seven months in 
which he wrote I saw my husband leave for a rendezvous 
which your secretary had arranged and return from it 


^ Recueil . p. 364. 

calm and reassured. "From the moment that 1 am in 
communion with the King's ideas, I am at ease," he 
':; told me each time, and he would then tell me the 
significant points which the important person 
designated by the King had made to him. ... It is 
possible that in 1940-1943 you did not believe that 
you would have to go so far as to protect a journalist 
who never ceased being loyal to you. . . . It is not 
less true, and you have known it ever since then, that 
that journalist did not write one line without having 
your moral support. You should consider it an out- 
rage. . . that a man is condemned as a traitor who 
v/as engaged in a continual exchange of views with ,^ 
your closest collaborator who acted according to 
your instructions. 

;'i'.,.,;' The Frederico note and the d^Ursel telegram *— On 

August 30, 1940, Louis Fredericq, Leopold's chef de cabinet . 

sent a note to Le Tellier, the Belgian ambassadojr to 

France, and to d'Ursel, the Belgian minister to Switzerland, 

which note was to be relayed to London to Albert De ^ ," . ., 

Vleeschauwer, the Administrator-General of the Belgian , . 


Congo and Rvianda Urundi. The occasion of the message 

was the recent announcement by De Vleeschauwer that the 

raw materials and wealth of the Congo should be used for the 

exclusive advantage of the Allies, and that the Congo should 

participate in military actions with the Allies against the 

Italian forces in Africa. Fredericq' s message readl 

_ The documents given to Princess Jospehine Charlotte 
^Leopold's daughter^ and to the Grand Marshal have 
arrived at their high destination. The documents 
reve»led that I4r. De Vleeschauwer often speaks of 

Scintilla, "Le Drame Poulet-Capelle," Le 
Flambeau, No. IV (July-August, 1949), 379-383. 


See Chapter III, pp. 104-105 . 


Belgium* s "word of honor" (parole donee) in order to 
justify his actions. Hie opinion is false. 

Belgivim, independent and neutral, contracted no 
alliance. She undertook vls-a»vi3 her guarantors only 
the defense of her territory against the invader. Her 
word did not go beyond this. Faithful to that word, 
the country fulfilled its oblications to the extreme 
limit of its strength. It accomplished all its duties 

■ ■ vis-a-vis the guarantors. 

The radio has announced that the colony proposes 
to engage in military operations. Attention is 
brought to the danger which would come from the example 
of engaging troops beyond the borders of the colony. 
Moreover, Belgiiom has never been at war with Italy. 
The repercussions of such action would be incalculable. 
The Congo, which has assvuaed no more obligations than 

„ did the mother country should take military measures 
only if directly attacked. •'■3 

d'Ursel sent the following telegram to De Vleeschauwer 

based upon the information in the note from Fredericqj 

According to instructions, we must reject the thesis 
. ' that an alliance with our guarantors links our fate to 
theirs. Our counteragreement did not pass beyond the 
agreement to defend our territory. The war ended for 
us on May 26. We must not risk dragging into the 
. fight the colony which must observe an absolute 

neutrality. V/e have never been at war with Italy. -^ 

The d»Ursel telegram was written by coiint d'Ursel, 

the Belgian ambassador at Berne, to Belgian diplomatic 

posts throughout the world. It was dated September 6, 

- 15 

1940, and was based upon information which the Coujit had 

received from Capellex .' ''• 

13 -,:-■■■' ' ■ ■ ' . 

Recueil . pp. 390-391. 
- .. 14 

Ibid . . p. 391. 


The date is significant because on August 20, 1940, 
the Government-in-Exile resigned and had not yet reorganized 
in London. In other words, this was the period when the 
Belgian diplomatic services abroad were receiving no di- 
rectives either from Brussels or from the Government-in- 


At the present time it is difficult to form a 
• consxdered opinion concerning our future. The general 
impression is that our political independence can be 
re-established, at least in part; that is essential. 
The events of the recent past prove that it is very 
difficult for a snail country to influence events, 
even when the Head of State is as loyal as ours. 

We have never admitted the thesis of the Pierlot 
government according to which an alliance exists 
between Belgium, France, and England. Those two 
countries were our guarantors who came to our aid in 
accordance with their promise. Our counter agreement 
was to defend our land, but there was never either a 
common cause or the promise to link our fate with 
^?®\^?\\* * ^^® cannot uphold in any way whatsoever 
the Ministers who, now either in London or in Lisbon, 
continue a war which is opposed to our interests arui 

It is particularly reprehensible to risk bringing 
the Congo into the war, as De Vleeschauwer is doing. 

, We believe that our colony should observe strict 
neutrality. In business affairs she should maintain 

; the principle of the open door and sell our products. . , 
to anyone who comes for delivery. 

r« «ff«l^?!f^? be desirable that you and your colleagues 
re-establish relations with the diplomatic repre- 
sentatives of Germany. In actual fact we are no longer 
at war with that country; we should be loyal and 
correct. V/ithout having cordial relations with the 
representatives of the occupant, it is of common 
interest that the relations be courteous . They will 
establish the rlghtness of our policy and will permit 
us to furnish and receive information valuable to the 

Spaak commented in Parliament on July 25, 1945: 

Of course, I do not pretend that the terms of the 
telegram were dictated by the King himself; for if 
the document is disturbing in its meaning, it is truly 
odious m its form. But I am convinced, knowing Count 

flnr?^ ^ ? ^^ was not he who took the initiative ^o 
send the telegram/.-^' " 


Recuell. pp. 399-40O. 


Ibid . . p. 651. 


The trip to Berchtesgaden .— -On November 19 j 1940, 
the King met with Hitler at Berchtesgaden. Leopold has 
claimed that the Fuhrer ordered him to Germany and that he 
went only to seek from the Chancellor an amelioration of 
the food situation in Belgivim and the repatriation of 
Belgian troops. Leopold denied that the audience was ;. , 
politically significant. Van Acker, however, declared in 
his speech on July 20: 

• : To those who say that the King went to Berchtesgaden 
by order of the Fuhrer . I answer that it is not so. 

. = The audience was solicited by the King; the trip was 
premeditated and prepared long in advance; the inter- 
view v;ith Chancellor Hitler had political importance. 
It was the King's sister, Marie-Jose, the Princess of 
Piedmont, who, at the request of the King, arranged 
the interview with the Fuhrer . . . . The interview at 

' . Berchtesgaden did not have as its object, or in any 
• case did not have as its sole object, the discussion 
of the fate of prisoners and the food situation.^^ 

Van Acker recalled that Leopold, traveling to Berchtesgaden, 
was accorded full honors by the Germans, and that the 
meeting with Hitler, for which the King wore his formial 
dress uniform, lasted two hours after which tea was 
served, implying a cordial atmosphere. Van Acker* s evi- 
dence came primarily from the account of the interview 

written by Paul Schmidt, Hitler's interpreter. 

' Schmidt wrote that after greeting each other, the 

1 A 

Ibid., pp. 617-61S. Princess Marie- Jose had 
married Prince Umberto, heir to the Italian throne, in 
1930. Many claim Hitler often heeded her suggestions. 

•^^ Ibid .. pp. 4:^.7-24.22. 


King thanked the Fuhrer for everything he had done for 
Belgium, particularly the repatriation of Belgian refugees 
caught in France. He also thanked him for numerous personal 

attentions, among them the return of the royal children 

from Spain. Leopold said that he had no personal requests 

to make of Hitler. ' *" 

The Chancellor then asked Leopold what he thought 
of future relations between Germany and Belgium. The King 
answered that above all he would like to know Hitler* s " 
intentions regarding Belgium and inquired if the Fuhrer 
would guarantee Belgian independence following the war. 
Hitler answered that Belgium would be part of the general 
reorganization of Europe which would include all those 
states which were in Germany»s economic and political sphere. 
Belgium* e independence, as far as her internal politics was 
concerned, would depend on how closely she aligned herself 
with Germany. According to Schmidt Leopold then asked for 
Bome guarantees from Hitler regarding independence. He 
said that public opinion in Belgium was uneasy because 
Germany had made no announcement concerning Belgium's 
future whereas England had broadcast by radio that Belgian 
independence would be respected at the end of the war. 
After a discussion of these issues the King and Hitler 

♦.« r. l^^ ^°^*-'- children had been taken from Belgium 

tikens's^L!"^''^- ^^'^" '^^ '^^^ °^ ^^^-^ '^^y — 


spoke of the food situation and of Belgian prisoners of 

Hitler gave no specific answer to any of Leopold's 
questions. Regarding independence, the Fuhrer said only 
that Belgium would occupy a certain place in the frame- 
work of economic and political cooperation with Germany 
but that any declaration to the Belgian people concerning 
this would be considered a weakness. The Chancellor con- 
cluded the business part of the interview with the comment 
that Leopold had been wise to end the war when he did, "' '. 
thereby avoiding the complete annihilation of the Belgian 
army. He said, too, that it was good that Leopold had 
remained with his people because the King of Norway and 
the Queen of Holland would certainly never reascend their 
thrones. Hitler guaranteed Leopold that Germany would not 
touch the Belgian royal house. ■' ' / 

Spaak commented in Parliament on July 25, 1945: 

I have certain scruples when I see the whole 
country rise up and demand. . . the punishment of. . . 
those people. . . who had the same idea ^as King 
Leopold/ that the war was over and that it was 
necessary for Belgium to have a place in the new 
Europe which was going to be dominated by Germany. . . . 
Yet. . . there are some who seem to find it qvdLte 
natural that the King of the Belgians, in the midst of 
war, should go to Berchtesgaden to take part in 
political discussions. . . and when these discussions 
were over to take tea with the Fuhrer . . . . w^ell, 
gentlemen, if a clerk of one of our departments, of if 
one of my directors-general— or even a simple employee — 
had done much less than that, an investigating 
committee would have condemned him without pity. 

Truly we do not have the right to have two weights 
and two measures, to strike down without pity the 


. . small and the weak and to show indulgence. . . when 
it concerns the first citizen of the land who goes 
to Berchtesgaden to take tea for two hours with the 
Fuhrer . -'• 

The tele/J:rams of congratulation and condolence . — 
The accusers of King Leopold cite the following evidence 
that he courted not only the Germans but the Italians as 
well. On April 22, 1941, a telegram was received at 
Laeken. It came frcMn a Dr. Keissner, a Nazi minister, '" 
addressed to Colonel Kiewitz, the King's gaoler: "The ' ' 
F\ihrer bequests that you thank the King for the greetings 

expressed by him on the occasion of his /Hitler'^ 

birthday. On March 7, 1942, Leopold sent a telegram to 

Rome, via Berlin, transmitted by the charge d'affaires of 

the Italian embassy at Brussels. "His Majesty the King, 

Rome. I express to you my deepest sympathy on th« " '' 

occasion of the death of Prince Amadeo, a great patriot 

and brilliant military chief. Leopold. "^"^ 

Spaak observed ' ^ 

"Did the King of England, during the war, 
telegraph the King of Italy when the Duke d'Aoste 
prince Amadeo/ died? It is very indicative of a 
state of mind. Can you imagine a state of mind 
like that? Belgium was at war with Italy. Italy 
was allied with Germany. Italy could have done us 
great harm. The outcome of the war at that time could 
have depended upon her action. ... It happened that 


Recueil . p. 657. 


Contribution . 253. 


Ibid ., p. 277. 


the General-ln-Chlef of that Italian army, who not 
only fought the English but also the Belgians, died 
after having been taken prisoner. A telegram of 
condolence was then sent to his family in which the 
memory of that great citizen and brave head of the 
army was celebrated. 

Either that represents the total absence of a 
sense of reality or it demonstrates that they were 
getting deeper into a policy in which they were 
already deeply involved. One cannot be opposed 
frankly and fiercely to Italy when one is not 
opposed frankly and fiercely to Germany. ^^ 

•■'•':■■ The trips to Austria . — During the war the King 

traveled to Austria. His defenders say he went to coisult 

a dentist. Van Acker commented; r > ..' 

The King, a prisoner, left the Palace of Laeken 
on several occasions. We would have nothing to say 
' if he had remained in Belgium or if he had attempted 
to reach an Allied country which would have been even 
better. But we are obliged to state that he offended 
public opinion by voluntarily going to Austria, to 
'■■ ■ Vienna and Salzburg, during the war, to a country at 

war with ours where he was the guest of one of the 
•'■ most notorious Nazis in Austria — Count Kuehn.^^ 

The deportation . — The accusers of King Leopold 

claim that he solicited his deportation from Belgium to 

Germany in June, I9kh* They based their charge on a 

document allegedly written by Van Straelen, Director of the 

Royal Museum of Natural History and had been asked by 

various patriotic groups to inquire of the Sovereign his 

intentions in the event of an Allied invasion of Europe. 

These groups urged Leopold's presence in Belgium at the 



Recuell . p. 658. 

^^ Ibld .. p. 615. 



liberation and suggested that he escape his captors and go 
into hiding in order to insvire it. According to the 
Van Straelen document, the contents of which were com- 
municated to the Government in London shortly before 
Leopold's deportation, the King refused. Van Acker re- 
vealing publicly for the first time the contents of this 
document, told Parliament on July 20: 

During the conversation which he /the King/ had 
. i;r with the_person of whom I have just spoken /Van 

Straelen/ the King made declarations which one could 
.-. only classify as very disturbing. He thought: 

(1) that at the moment of landing and, in any case, 
. at the moment of liberation, there would be a bloody 
reaction in Belgium; (2) that he did not want to be 
a part of it, preferring to be away from Belgium and 
to return when it was all over; (3) that he did not 
intend to be present at the moment of the Allied 
landing; (4) that he did not want to meet any member 
of the London government; (5) that his departure would 
have the advantage of leaving to others the responsi- 
bility of the moment; (6) that the choice of a Regent 
would pose so many problems that they would not 
■ hesitate to abandon his election and ask the King to 

return; (7) that the Allied command would not fail to 
. interfere in everything and that he could not tolerate 
this interference if he were in Belgium; (8) that the 
American and English generals were brutal and clumsy; 
(9) that he desired not to be present when all the 
dirty linen was washed after the Germans left. . . . 

If the King was not found in Brussels at the time 
of the arrival of the Allies, it is not because he 
suffered deportation. It is because he accepted it 
• voluntarily, if indeed he did not provoke it, in 
spite of the counsel and the pleadings which were 
heaped on him before June 6.2d .. > 

The second marriage. — Leopold's marriage to 

Liliane Baels in September, 1941, is a microcosm of the 

Ibid . . p. 621. 


■ 1 

royal question. The frenzy of reaction to it has calmed j 
very little in the nineteen years that have passed. Today 1 
in Belgium the mere mention of Miss Baels, now the 
Princess de Rethy, can provoke a diatribe in which the ex- 
King is either damned or praised, depending on the 
geographic and political origins of the speaker. 

-. . The essence of the controversy over the marriage 

is constitutional, but the significance of it is political 

and psychological. This part of the indictment against 

King Leopold touched the emotions and sentiments of the 

people more directly than any other charge, including that | 

of treason, and the politicians intent on breaking the King 

took full advantage of this sensitivity. Van Acker's ■ /^ 

statement well illustrates this technique: . - 

It was during the war that the King decided to ■':•>; 
. contract a new marriage. By doing so he chose the ' ' 
family of which he became a member. 

The marriage did immense harm to His Majesty. 
In the eyes of the people a King is not like other 
men. He is considered a superman. The pedestal upon 

'The unconstitutionality of the marriage Is 

incontrovertible. There may have been ambiguities over 
the interpretation of the King's duty and prerogatives as 
Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, but there can be 
no doubt that a marriage is a contract requiring minis- 
terial approval vmder Article 64 of the Constitution. 
Moreover, Belgian law requires that religious marriages be 
preceded by a civil ceremony. The civil ceremony uniting 
Liliane and Leopold followed the religious service. Third 
it was King Leopold himself who determined the morganatic 
quality of the xinion, a decision not to be made by the 
sovereign alone. 

? 157 

which the King was pieced was destroyed by the ., ■;< 
marriage. ... 

The legend has crumbled, and nothing remains. 
The nobleman is furious. The bourgeois is unhappy; 
;■,, in his selfishness he asks himself why the King did not 
marry his daughter; and the common man understands 
nothing at all of it. He finds that the King should 
have married someone from his own world. 

The people do not accept such a marriage. They 
accept it xn a film, in a novel, in some other cotmtry, 
,;,;/ or ii^ a history book. Some day they might be proud 
that the King contracted such a marriage. But today 
it is an error. . . . 

The attitude of the King during the war constitutes 
• ^, a bad example f o?* our young people and for the 

generations to come. 
.,;. , At every level of Belgian society there are to be 
found those who by their resistance to the occupant 
:. and by their devotion to the cause of the country have 
given magnificent proof of our national vitality. 
VI, : One should legitimately have been able to expect 
of the first citizen of Belgivim, throughout the years 
■ ■■■] of mourning and trial, to be the very incarnation of 

the sufferings endured by his people and of their will 
to oppose under all circumstances the demands of the ■ 
enemy. '^° 

There are many Belgians who believe that the royal 
affair would not have turned out so disastrously for 
Leopold had he not married Lillane Baels. (Observe that 
the author writes "had he not married Liliane Baels" and 
not "had he not remarried.") They are convinced that 
irrespective of the constitutional and political involve* 
ments, a compromise could have been reached between the 
Government and the King, had it not been for presence of 
this woman. 

To understand the hatred that many Belgians feel 


Recueil . pp. 615-616. 


for the Princess, one has to appreciate the affection that 
all Belgians had for Leopold ^s first wife, the Swedish 
princess Astrid. The twenty-five years that have passed 
since her death have lessened none of this devotion. She 
is still remembered as the Queen who shopped personally in 
the stores, walked her children in the public parks, visited 
the sick, gave generously of herself to charity. It was 
she who warmed the cool aloofness of Leopold toward his 
subjects and re-established the affection which had bound 
King Albert and his family so closely to the Belgians. 
Her death was a personal loss which the people shared with 

The suffering Leopold became almost a symbol to 
his subjects, particularly after the fall of Belgium: a 
handsome young man suddenly made King by his beloved 
father's premature death, a widower accidently responsible 
for the death of an Idolized wife, a father of three 
orphaned children, a leader defeated in war, a hero 
imprisoned by the enemy. 

Liliane Baels, a Flemish commoner, unwittingly 
destroyed the symbol and shattered the identification be- 
tween the monarch and his subjects, particularly where 
this identification was most intense— among women. The 

■ ' ■ 29 

„ .^ . ^^® Queen was killed instantly in an automobile 
accident near Kussnacht in Switzerland on August 29. 193 5. 
Leopold was at the wheel of the car and was seriously 


To spread discord among the Belgians and take 

advantage of the racial animosity, the Germans released a 
much larger number of Flemish than Walloon prisoners of 
war. This in itself seemed to suggest collaboration on 
the part of the Flemings even though in the overwhelming 
percentage of cases this was untrue. 




author was told that after the announcement of the 

marriage was made in December, 1941, there was a per- 

ceptible drop in morale, especially among the women whose 

men were prisoners of war, and it was most noticeable in 

Wallonia where the percentage of prisoners was higher ■ 

than in Flanders.^° ■■ 5 

■••-:■■ '-^m 

If this beginning of public life was not suf- ..^ 7j| 
ficiently inauspicious for the Princess, the knowledge 
that her father, the Governor of W«at Flanders at the :, : 
outbreak of war, had fled before the Germans and that her 
brother was accused of desertion for refusing to join the 
Belgian army after 1940 nourished the animosity against 

This animosity, now a part of the Flemish- -. 
Walloon friction and of the volatile war time incivisme 
issue was strongest among the bourgeoisie. The reasons 
for it are psychological as well as sociological. It 
would seem that in a stratified but essentially bourgeois 
society like the Belgian, where social mobility is 
possible but limited, the arriviste (it matters little 
whether Princess Liliane deserves this epithet; she is -. 
considered a parvenue ) is condemned if the social leap is 


too conspicuous or too easy. To satisfy bourgeois 
mentality the move must be earned honorably and quietly. 
A beautiful and intelligent twenty-five year old bourgeois 
woman marrying a king would be automatically suspect. ^■'■ 
The Country V/aits for the Kjng^s Defenaa 

A year of feints and parries separated the Govern- 
ment »s indictment and the initiation of the King»s defense. 
Leopold used the occasion of his change of residence from 
Austria to Switzerland to address his subjects by radio. : 
In the broadcast he condemned the attack made against him 
by Van Acker and Spaak, and stated his intention to await 
the verdict of the people before agreeing to abdicate: 
"The Belgian monarchy is founded on the common will of the 
citizens. ';\?hatever that will may be, whatever may be the 
legal means by which it is expressed, I accept its verdict 
in advance. "^^ In other words, Leopold maintained the • ' 
position he had taken in the letter he wrote to the Prince 
Regent on July 14 . The King also informed the Belgians 

31 , 
- The aristocracy, on the other hand, was much more 

tolerant of her, in a spirit of noblesse obli^f^ . 


Recueil, p. 673. On October 1, 1945, Leopold, 
his family, and entourage moved from St. Wolfgang in 
Austria to the royal chateau Le Reposoir just outside 
Geneva, Switzerland. The broadcast was made the day 
before the move, September 30. It was not transmitted by 
Belgian radio stations, however, due perhaps to the 
disputed constitutionality of the speech. Leopold had not 
received ministerial approval for his address, and the Left 
considered it unconstitutional. 




that on July 14, 1945, he had offered to Van Acker and 
the Government the opportunity to consult the royal 
dossiers . 

In a speech to the Senate on October 16 Van Acker 
commented on the Kingts broadcast: "The King gives us 
to understand that he offered to open his dossiers to us. 
I find myself forced categorically to deny that af- 
firmation. "^^ Van Acker »s denial brought a counter- 
denial from Leopold »s secretary, Jacques Pirenne.^^ His 
statement was corroborated by the Minister of Justice in 
Van Acker* s cabinet, Du Bus de Warnaffe, who had been •. . 
present when Leopold made his offer. The Premieres 
attempt to silence the King had miscarried because of 
de Warnaffe, and on November 6, 1945, Van Acker was com- 
pelled to announce that the Government would consent to 
publish a White Paper in which all Information regarding 
the royal question would be included, not only the 
Government »s documents but those of the King as well. 
Leopold refused the Government »s offer but countered with 
the suggestion that he publish his own mite Paper to 
appear simultaneously with the Government's: "The King 

Recuell . p. 6S2. 

Capelle and Frederlcq had resigned in Jxine, I945. 
On Augst 8, 1945, Leopold had established a secretariat in 
Brussels with Jacques Pirenne, professor at the University 

°! S!;!f;?!^^* ^^ 5^^ ^^^^- H^ ^Is^ appointed Willy Weemaes 
as private secretary. 



considers that it would be impossible for him to allow the 
Government to publish his dossier , the Government having 
taken the position of accuser against His Majesty. ""^^ 

The issue hung fire until the dissolution of '• ' 
Parliament on January 9, I946, and the Government's an- 
nouncement that elections would take place on February 1?. 
Leopold then reopened the controversy regarding a national 
consultation, a device rejected by a committee in the 
House of Representatives on October 17, 1945."^^ He pro- 
posed in a letter to the Government dated January 16, I946, 
that a national consultation take place following the 
elections between which two events he and the Government 
would publish their dossiers . ■ ' 

f^ Regenerated by the verdict of national sovereignty. 
, the monarchy, whatever is left of it by then, will 
resume its constitutional role which has been too Ions 
restrained. ^ 

.•.'j-.r- v/H,v If the nation does not declare itself frankly in 
, my favor, I shall abdicate. 

If, on the other hand, the Belgians place their 
confidence in me, I will resume the exercise of my 

Recueil . p. 702. 

On October 17, 1945, a committee acted upon the 
bill proposed by Carton de Wiart on July 17, I945, and re- 
jected it. 


Recueil , p. 718. The last paragraph of the same 
letter gives further evidence of Leopold's familiar at- 
titude that as a king he should be judged only in the light 
of what he had done for "the greater good of Belgium" and 
only in the light of what he (Leopold) conceived that 
"greater good" to be; 

At the critical hours of my reign, of v^^ich there 
are so many, I obeyed only my royal conscience. One 


The Government rejected Leopold's proposal reminding him 

that it appeared to contradict his statements made in the 

letter to the Prince Regent on July I4 and in the message 

to the nation broadcast on September 30. ■■,!■..■; 

Parliament is the legal expression of the sover- 
eign will of the nation. Contrary to what the anti- 
national parties supposed before the v;ar, there is 
not and there could not be an antipathy between the 
leg:al coimtry and the real country . The King has 
accepted in advance the verdict of the common will 
of all citizens whatever may be the legal means by 
^ which it is expressed. Moreover, as the Consti- 
■ '^- tution stipulates. Parliament, offspring of universal 
suffrage, will be the interpreter of that will. The 
House ^of Representative^ has declared that the 
proposition which the King has brought up again was 
incompatible with the Constitution and with the 
parliamentary democracy which it organizes and 
guarantees. , , 

The Government is not able to revise that 
judgment. .. ■■■ 

Your ^5ajesty fears that if the solution of the 
royal question is carried over after the elections ■ ^ 
/and not followed by a popular consultation/ the '•' . 
elections will threaten the principle of the 

The principle of the monarchy is not in 
question, and the monarchy has continued to exer- 
cise its constitutional function since the liber- 
ation. The Government declares solemnly that 
neither the principle of the monarchy nor that of 
the Dynasty is disputed or threatened and that they 
- are not the stakes of any electoral battle. On the 
contrary, to have recourse after the elections to 
the consultation rejected by the House is to create 

cannot fail to recognize that Belgium, of all the 
countries which were submerged by the terrible tidal 
wave of 1940, has the most rapidly reconstituted her 
forces because she did not use them during the 
occupation in vain and fratricidal conflicts. One 
can discuss the question, from a constitutional point 
of view, to know if I had reason or not to remain 
among my people during the war. But one must 
recognize that my presence preserved their unity and 
kept them from many horrible miseries which other 
countries suffered. 


^^Recueil, pp. 720-721. 


Article 40 declares that each house of Parlia- 
ment has the right to investigate. 

40, T , 

Leopold said that he chose to publish after the 
elections because he did not want the Paper to influence 
the outcome of the elections. It is more reasonable to 
assume that he hoped the elections would make the White 
Paper unnecessary, or, if not unnecessary, would alter the 
perspective of the documentation. 

, a dangerous precedent for the monarchy which risks 

becoming elective rather than /remaining/ hereditary. ^^ j 

Leopold, still maneuvering to strengthen his 1 

position, responded through his secretary, Pirenne, that ■ 

the Government had misinterpreted his proposal. He did 
not intend that the consultation be a referendum but the ' '^ '^ 
means of investigating public opinion, a device consistent 
with Article 40 of the Constitution. ^^ He restated his 
willingness to publish a White Paper to appear simul- 
taneously with the one coming from the Government. The 
White Papers were to appear after the elections, however. ^° 
On February 7 the Council of Ministers agreed to Leopold »s 

The elections held on February 17, 1946, neither 
solved nor clarified the royal question, contrary to the 
expectations of both of the left which hoped to entrench 
itself more deeply and of Leopold who awaited vindication. 
As a result of the elections, the Left bloc in the House 
outnumbered the Catholic Right by seventeen votes compared 
to thirty-three votes before the elections. Catholic 

- ■■ ' 165 

gains in this election resulted from the disappearance 
of prewar fascist splinter parties. In the Senate the 
Left»s twenty-seven vote majority fell to a single vote.^^ 
The new cabinet, formed after great difficulty on 
April 3, remained tripartite under the premiership of 
Van Acker. ^ 

The results of the elections reopened the issue 
of the White Papers. The Government was reluctant to 
publish; Leopold, on the other hand, was more eager than 
ever. His defense was still pending. A national con- ; 
sultation would not be held, yet the elections had given 
him encouragement. Leopold decided to appoint his own 
commission to which he would open all but his private 
dossiers. On July 14, I946, the King's official letter 
of invitation to form a commission was sent to the 
following nine mem 

Results of the February election: 

House Senate 
Catholic Social Party (P.S.C.) ,. \ 92 83 
Socialist Party (P.S.B.) 69 55 
Liberal Party (P.L.B.) „ I7 12 
Communist Party (P.C.B.) 23 17 
U.D.B. (A Flemish party) 1 


The tripartite coalition governed only until 
July, 1946, when the Catholic ministers resigned because 
of their party's irreconciliable opposition to the Left 
over the royal question. A tripartite lefist government. 
Liberal, Socialist, and Communist, was formed first \inder 
Van Acker and then under Camille Huysmans, a Socialist. 
It governed until March, 1947, when the Commimists with- 
drew in order to go into opposition. 



r,5S' '■:".-'/. r».-;'^^TIT: 

■ ,/ 


1. Ga^tan Delacroix— President of the Order of 
Attorneys attached to the Court de Cassation * 

2. Leopold Devos — First President Emeritus of 
the Cour de'Appel in Brussels, former 
president of the Faculty of Law at the Free 
University of Brussels, honorary professor 
at the same university. 

3« Pierre Graux — Former president of the Order of 
Attorneys attached to the Cour de Cassation of 
Brussels, former president of the Faculty of 
, Law at the University of Brussels, honorary 

;; professor at the same university. 

k, Charles Loiseau — First Solicitor-General 

_^ Emeritus of the Cour d*Appel at Li^ge. 


5* Rene Marcq— Honorary President of the 

Administrative Council of the Free University 
of Brussels, professor at the same university, 
former president of the Order of Attorneys 
attached to the Cour de Cassation , member of 
the Royal Academy of Belgium. 

6. Jean Servais--Minister of St:;te, honorary 

attorney-general attached to the Cour d*Appel . 
honorary president of the Administrative 
Council of the Free University of Brussels, 
profeegor at the same university. 

7« Leon van der Essen — Secretary-General of the 
Catholic University of Louvain, professor at 
that university, member of the Flemish Royal 
Academy of Science, Letters and Fine Arts of 

.' •. 8. V. van Hoestenberghe — Former senator 

; .' Bourgemester of Bruges, former president of 

' *; ' . the Order of Attorneys attached to the Court J 

■<^,':iM'r ..... . at Bruges. ,, ;~.i.-.. 

9» Mon«»««'l^eur van Waeyenbergh — Rector- 

■ Magnificent of the Catholic University of 
• , , .. , Louvain, member of the Flemish Royal Academy 
. -of Science, Letters and Fine Arts of Belgium. 

An examination of this list reveals the geographic and 

political distribution of the commissioners. There were 

representatives from Flanders and Wallonia as well as 



graduates of and professors !xt both the Free (I.e., 
nonsectarian) University of Brussels, the Alma Mater of 
Belgian Socialists, Liberals and Communists, and the 
Catholic University of Louvain. All except two of 
Leopold* s choices were attorneys and all had impeccable 
war records. The distribution reveals this interesting 
phenomenon: that no body which aspired to carry on ■ - 
"objective" research dealing with a national question 
could fail to represent the ethnic, religious, linguistic, 
and political dichotomy in Belgixim. 

It was this commission which studied for a whole 
year the files made available to them by King Leopold. 
It published its final report on March 25, I947, 

/•■".'■'■";'■'*';, CHAPTER VI "' ;'"^"' 


The Commission's defense of Leopold's behavior 
since May 25, 1940, was based upon a constitutional inter- 
pretation of monarchical power which was the reverse of 
the position taken by the Government.^ The Commission 
revealed its constitutional philosophy when it defended 
the following opinions expressed by King Leopold in 1936: 

A constitutional monarchy is based on the 
principle of a rigorous separation of power. It 
supposes alongside a Parliament which legislates 
and controls, an executive which governs. The 
executive power belongs to the King . , . v/ho 
appoints and dismisses his ministers . . . who 
alone are responsible before Parliament. 

Today while our Constitution remains un- 
changed, the executive power in fact has ceased 
^::, to be distinct from the legislative power. In 

reality, it belongs to the political parties ' " ', 
whose ministers have become, throughout the past "■■':[■ 
legislatures, their orderlies. ... As the exec- 
utive power has weakened, the role of the State 
continues to grow. Thus by a paradoxical 

The defense was presented in the document en- 
titled: Report of the Commission of Information Insti - 
tuted by H is I^iestv King Leopold III U July 1946 

(Luxembourg: Imprimerie St. Paul, 1947) It shall be 
referred to henceforth as the Report . The Report con- 
tained 150 pages of text, divided into thirteen chapters, 
and 270 pages of corroborative documentation. 




contradiction, the more the State finds itself 
obliged to act, the less is it able to do so. 
The first condition which imposes itself, 
., that upon which depends . . . the fate of our 

regime, is the restoration of a truly responsi- 
ble executive pov;er in all its independence and 
capacity for action. 2 

The Commission also quoted from other speeches made by 
the King before the war and approved the ideas presented 
in them.-^ "These principles formulated by the King on the 
eve of the war are the testimony of an absolute respect 
for parliamentary and constitutional institutions."^ 

.;, ;• Given this point of view, the Commission natu- 
rally found that Leopold's behavior from May 25, 1940, 
tintii his deportation on June 6, 1944, fell within the 
range of the King's constitutional authority. Yet this 
behavior could not be "proved" to have been constitu- 
tion&lj it could only be shown as legitimate within the 
frame of constitutional reference defined by Leopold in 
terms like those quoted above. But this frame of refer- 
ence had been challenged by the Government and rejected by 
Parliament on September 18, 1944- The Commission, in order 
to relieve itself of *the impossible task of proving the 
constitutionality of the King's actions, simply denied that 
constitutionality was an issue and claimed that the dispute 

^ Report . pp. 21-22. 

^See Chapter I, pp. 37-40. 

^ Report . p. 23. 



' '^ ' 170 

' . - ■ '■ ''■ 

over the break between Leopold and the Cabinet in 19^0 and 
the consequences of this act were not constitutional but 
political in nature, i.e., a dispute over alternative 
political policies. By doing this, the Report hoped to 
accomplish two objectives: to imply indirectly the con- 
stitutionality of the King's behavior, and to challenge 
the validity of Parliament's action on September 18, I942f. 
Since Leopold had already denied the representative charac- 
ter of Parliament on that date, the Report placed the royal 
question, so far as the King was concerned, where it had 
been before September, 1944* Under these circumstances, 
the royal question was still open to further parliamentary 

The strategy was skillful, but the tactics used to 
carry it out proved to be the undoing of the defense. The 
Report considered Leopold's behavior exclusively a politi- 
cal question and asked the Belgian people to examine and 
Judge a policy which the King had considered best for the 
country. That policy could only be defined as attentisme . 
yet the Report claimed that Leopold had maintained an 
aloof neutrality during the war free from any political 
involvement with the occupant. Thus instead of a positive 
avowal of attentisme the Commission simply produced a 
denial of the Government's accusations. The Commissioners 
made an irreparable error when they failed to take their 
chance with the defense of the policy of attentisme and to 


..A • 

say frankly to the Belgians: "This is what the King did 
for your good. He was not innocent of playing the 
•waiting game,* but his concessions to innocence were 
made so that you might sviffer less irrespective of the 
outcome of the war." 

If, in the succeeding pages, the defense of the 
King's position seems weak and halting and the quotations 
used to illustrate and document this case often seem con- 
fused and inappropriate, all this reflects accurately the 
shortcomings of the defense presented by the Commission. 

In the mind of many Belgians, this failure gave 
evidence of the very guilt that the Government was seek- 
ing to prove in its indictment. Unwittingly, the con- 
clusions and documentation of the Report played into the 
hands of the Government. 
The Pre- itfar Period and the Eighteen-Day Campaign 

The first three chapters of the Report discussed 
the behavior of the King from I936 until l9i+0. This 
discussion was presented not only as a vindication of the 
King's wisdom in handling the internal and external 
affairs of Belgium before the war (implying that his 
actions during the eighteen-day campaign and during the 
occupation were no less wise), but it was also an attempt 
to silence those critics of the King who were re- 
interpreting past history in the light of the controversy 
over the royal affair. After July, 1945, many of those 


opposing Leopold re-e:xamined his prewar record and claimed 

that the capitulation in I940 was merely the last step in 

a long-planned pro-German policy. They believed that the 

failure to continue military cooperation with France and 

Great Britain and the isolated defense undertaken by 

Belgium from I936 until 1%0 had been deliberately designed 

by King Leopold to favor the Germans. 

' ''--'-■ The Report answered these accusations regarding 

Leopold ♦s role in the policy of independence-neutrality 

by quoting extensively from the Government's official 

statement published in 1941 J Belgivm. the Official Account 

of What Happened. 1939-1940 .^ Two quotations seemed to the 

authors of the Report to give sufficient evidence of the 

national enthusiasm for prewar policy. 

Never did a foreign policy receive such general 
consent in Belgium. To be convinced of this it 
suffices to reread the debates of which it was the 
object in the Senate April 16 and 17 2^1940/ three 
weeks before the aggression. Approval continued to ' 
grow after the beginning of the conflict. Even 
those who before had criticized it /independence- 
neutrality gave it, at that time, unreserved support. 
"I am even more qualified to say what I think of 
that policy," said a Socialist Senator from Wallonia, 
"because I was opposed to it at the beginning. Con- 
fusing independence and neutrality, I said to myself 
that neutrality was. . . troublesome and cowardly. . . . 
But at the shock of events which have covered human 
conscience in blood, I recognized my error, and for 
eight months now I am sure that it was our young 
King who saw clearly. And the old republican that I 
am thanks him."" 

''See Chapter II, p. 60. 


Report , p. 15. 

,f^j. - ':':ir. 

173 j 

On September 1, 1939, the German army invaded i 

Poland. . . . Faced with this danger, Belgiiim united. ' 

The GovGrnment, in complete accordance v/ith the King \ 

and with the approval of Parliament and public ) 

opinion, affirmed the line of conduct it had been \ 

assigned since 1936. On September 3, 1939, it '^ 

published a declaration of neutrality. 7 vj^ 

Regarding the defense of Belgium the Conmiission 
felt that no better argiiment for the King could be made 
than an account of the disfavor which Nazi Germany had •■ 
shown toward Belgian defense preparations after September, 
1939, preparations which had been placed under the personal 
authority of the King from September 3, I939, on. The , .■ 
following is a report of a meeting which took place on ,'■»•,.• 
October 30, 1939, between Leopold »s aide-de-camp . General 
van Overs traeten, and the military attache of the Gerraan 
embassy in Brussels, Lt. Colonel Pappenheim. Van . 
Overstraeten speaks I 

During the course of a recent conversation be- 
tween the German ambassador and Mr. Spaak, it was 
mentioned that the German foreign minister had ex- . 
plained the concentration of troops on the Lower 
Rhine by pointing out on the one hand, the consider- 
able number of Franco-British troops facing Belgium, 
and, on the other, the Belgian re-deployment di- 
rected precisely against Germany. 

What I am going to tell you is neither an ex- 
cuse nor an explanation. I ask you to consider it 
a piece of information, friendly information, which 
His Majesty the King thinks necessary to give to 
you. It is true that for a month now we have been 
reinforcing our units facing Germany. The reason 
is simple. During the first weeks of war much of 
cur available strength was placed facing south 


"^Ibid. , p. 17. 


. /i.e., tcc.vard France when the Belgians feared that 
the French would attack Germany through Belglvi^. 
But as soon as the Polish campaign was finished wa 
have of necessity taken notice of the flow of the 
mass of the German army toward the west. ... I 
wish also to call your attention to Belgian public 
opinion, that is to say, that of the mass of the 
population and not that of certain people, certain 
groups, or certain newspapers. If ever a German 
soldier should set foot on Belgian soil, the entire 
nation would oppose him to a man. Be convinced of 
this. We are an independent people, and we will 
not tolerate being dragged into a war, on either side, 

. against our will.o 

This presentation appears to be a fair and sound 
defense of King Leopold* s role in the formulation of the 
policy of independence-neutrality and of the part he took 
in preparing the defense of Belgium. The fourth chapter 
of the Report , describing the eighteen-day campaign, gave 
an accurate account of the war and of Leopold's conduct 


in it.^ This chapter, however, like the three preceding 
ones in the Report , was not central to the issue involved 
in the royal question, but served to create a climate of 
opinion favorable to Leopold. These four chapters re- 
sembled in function the speeches made by Paul-Henri Spaak 
on July 24 and 25, 1945, i.e., to recall past events and 
the suspicions engendered by them. 

8 ' 

Ibid., p. 28. The Commissioners also give 
evidence that it was at Leopold's insistence that the K-W 
Line, which on September 1, 1939, was still in the planning 
stage, was pushed through to completion. 

^See Chapter III, pp. 64-73. 

See Chapter V, p. 141* 


. ,, . Chapter Four of the Report laid great stress on 
the Ministers* constant insistence that Leopold move his 
armies southward in retreat toward France, a move Leopold 
resisted during the entire course of the campaign. The 
Report defended the King»s conduct ac::ainst those who 
claimed that he had commanded his troops in such a manner 
that separation from the mass of the Allied armies and ,. 
surrender to the Germans would be inevitable. It empha- 
sized that Leopold had not been an independent commander 
but was subject always, &s his father had been during the 
First World War, to the orders of the French generalissimo. 
The Report documented its defense by quoting from a speech 
made by Hubert Pierlot at Chatam House in London on 
February 14, 1941, where Pierlot admitted that any change 
in the disposition of Allied troops should have been made 
no later than May I3 or 14 and that, in any case, no ad- 
justment could have been made in the disposition of 
Belgian troops without the approval of the Allied supreme 
commander. Such permission was never granted. 
The Question of Constitutionality 

Chapter Five ^ was pivotal to Leopold's defense. 
It presented the Commissioners' reasoning that the dispute 

• - 12„ , •:.,.. 

Report , p. 61. 

•^Chapter V was entitled "The Position of the King 
Deciding to Share the Fate of his Army." 






over constitutionality had no place in the royal question 

because the issue of constitutionality had never arisen 

either before or at the time of the separation of King 

and Cabinet on May 25, I940. The Report summarized the 

Government's case against Leopold thus: 

Article 64 of the constitution states that no act 
of the King can have effect if it is not counter- 
signed by a minister. On May 25, by refusing to 
follow his ministers, and on May 28, by allowing 
■ '^i^self to be made a prisoner, the King carried out 
a political act not only devoid of ministerial ap- 
proval but also formally disavowed by his government. 

Having done this, the King should voluntarily 
abdicate because by violating Article 64 of the 
Constitution, he deliberately broke the pact which 
united him to the nation. H 

The defense against these charges presented in 
the Report was two-fold: one, purely constitutional 
which the Commission realized was insufficient to stop 
the controversy! the other, the heart of the defense, the 
denial that constitutionality was an issue. 

The constitutional defense of the Commission 
focused on the argument that Article 64 of the Consti- 
tution did not govern the actions of the King as claimed 
by the Government: 

Our Commission believes that in any case Article 
bi). of the Constitution does not rule the matter here • ■* 
under discussion. '.Vhile it is said that no act of 'i^ 

the King can have effect if it is not countersigned 
by a minister, it only concerns, the context proves 
tnis. the act of the royal function /act of the 
Kin^ and not an act of the person of the Klne: /i.e. 
personal actg/, & t.j. «•, , 



eport . p. 62. 


Moreover, the Constitution used the word "act" 
on many occasions (Articles 16, 23, 56 ouater . 69, 
71* 79, 109, and 138) and each time in the same sense 
(act of the ^royal/ function). 
■ ' Therefore when the king decides to leave his 

palace or stay there, to stay in the capital or travel 
about the country or when he tries to avoid dangers 
threatening his person he does not . accomplish an act 
in the sense of Article 6k of the Constitution and 
a fortiori he does not by so doing violate that 
disposition found in that article. 

Moreover, if Article 64 declares that the action 
of a king, if not countersigned by a minister, is 
void it does not go so far as to impose on the king 
the obligation to follow the advice of his ministers. ^ 

It is difficult to accept this peculiar constitutional 
interpretation which equates the decision to leave the 
country in order to continue a war through an exile regime 
to a decision to leave the palace for an occasional 
journey aro\md the coxintry. Are both actions really 
personal acts of the king not requiring ministerial 
countersignature? To answer in the affirmative would de- 
stroy any meaningful distinction between personal acts of 
the monarch and actions taken in the exercise of what the 
constitution calls la fonction royale . 

Instead of trying to prove that Leopold* s actions • V^ 
were constitutionally correct, the Commission centered 
its attention on an attempt to show that the question of 
constitutionality had never been raised either during the 
May days of I940 or later: 



Ibid . . p. 62 and 63, 

17d j 

But was it thixs that the problem ^f constitutlon- 
alitj/ was posed to the King by the Ministers? Ac- 
cording to the docximents which we have consulted it j 
appears that the constitutional problem was not posed, J 
theoretically and in this sense, by either the j 

Ministers or by the King during the period frcm 'i 

:; May 20 to 25, 1940.1^ -- : . . ., , 

The Commission contended that the Government had been 1 

concerned only with the military conduct of the war (mani- j 

fested by the Ministers' insistence that Leopold maintain 


his contact with the Allied armies and retreat southward i 


toward France), and with the international consequences of 1 

a surrender which would indicate to the Allies that Belgium i 

was not committed to their cause beyond the agreement to 

defend her own territory. To docviment this contention, 

the Commission quoted extensively from Spaak's account * 


given at Limoges on May 31, I94O, of the relations between 


the King and the Government from May 10 to May 28, I94O. ' 


We answered that there was no hesitation possible i 

. and that it was the only attitude to take /poncerning | 

the King's question to the Ministers inquiring into \ 

the wisdom of the departure of the Dutch Queen for 1 


The King continued to claim that in spite of the 
appeal /for help/ addressed to the French and the " 

English he was without obligations toward them. We 
told him "Sire, you could have done otherwise had the 
nation allowed. . . but from the moment that you 
. called them to our aid you were bound j if you abandon 
their cause you will be a traitor and will be dis- 
honored. " ; 

We fee^l that if the unhappy situation which we 
foresee /capitulation/ were to be accomplished aind ■ ^.; 


Ibid . . p. 63. 


See Recueil . pp. 74-95. 

179 \ 

if the Ministers vrere there to sanction it, even 
tacitly, by their presence, the act which would be 
accomplished would no longer be a military act but 
a political one.l® - . .; ■.; ■■■■',, 

The Commissioners drew the following conclusions from the 
statements made by Spaakt 

The Ministers feared above all that the King would 
^ no longer continue the war alongside of the Allies and 
. that the capitulation and the decision to remain with 
his soldiers would be considered as a refusal to 
continue the battle along with the French and the 
English. That attitude would be considered as treason 
and to that the Ministers could not and would not be 
considered a party. 

In all the texts there is no manifestation of a 
single purely constitutional preoccupation. The only 
disputed thing is the fear of the Ministers to see the 
King become involved in a situation which, on the one 
. hand, would prevent the continuation of the battle 
alongside the Allies, and, on the other, would risk 
leading Belgium to negotiate with the occupant. There 
is no question of a violation of the Constitution. 19 

The Conmiission then quoted from both the King's 
accoxmt of the meeting on May 25, 1940, and from 

Pierlot's: - ^V'l V. 

■ ■ ' , *> ' ' 

Leopold t They did everything they could to convince 
the King. . . that by remaining in Belgium, contrary 
to the unanimous opinion of the Government, he would 
present an extremely serious question because he 
would be thereby responsible for the division which 
'would occur in the country. In addition, the King 
■-"would be deluding himself if he thought that he would 
be able to play any role whatsover under the occu- 

Pier lot ! The Prime Minister declared that. . . tl«" 
King should do everything in order to avoid capture 

V ' 1ft 

Report . pp. 63-64. 
■"■^Ibid. , p. 64. 




by the enemy. ... He could continue /if he left 
Belgium with the Ministers/ to function as Head of 
State alongside of the Allied governments in a 
political as well as in a military capacity, uti- 
lizing all the Belgian war material found ±n France. 
That is the duty of the King. 20 

It then commented on these two versions: 

Ibid., p. 65. 
Jbj^., pp. 65-66. 

It was always the same preoccupation: the King i 

should leave in order to continue the war and to 'I 

fulfill the engagement contracted with the " ' 

Allies. . . . Once again at that very moment /i.e., i 

the moment of departure on May 25, 1940/ when one 
could have perhaps expected to hear considerations 
of a constitutional nature regarding the King's .. 1 
decision whether to abandon his functions other than , .>| 
the military command, it was a simple question of -'I 

fact which the Prime MJLnister foresaw. 21 ! 

' \ 

In short, the Commission insisted that no constitutional 
question was involved because no one had ever mentioned ^ 
it. Only international and military policy was involved, 
and the Commissioners believed that the King had the same 
right as did the Government, to have and follow a military 
or international policy, that right being contingent, of 
course, on the approval that Parliament would grant or j 

withhold after the war. j 

The Commission either did not wish to see or waa 
unable to see that the Government in May, I94O, considered 
unconstitutional the political actions taken by the King 
against the advice of responsible ministers, though it ' "; 

might well be that the Government failed to spell out % 


this point more clearly because It seemed ouch a logical 

The indictment of King Leopold claimed not only 
that the separation of King and Cabinet was unconstitution- 
al but the surrender as well. The Commissioners took 
issue with the Government over the constitutionality of 
the King»s decision to surrender himself personally. They 
denied the Government's contention that surrender was a 
political act and claimed instead that it was an essential 
aspect of the King's function as Commander-in-Chief. They 
then reiterated their position that ministerial counter-- 
signature was not necessary for certain actions taken by 
Leopold and underlined their disagreement with the Govern- 
ment over what action of the monarch required the consent 
of responsible ministers. 

The Commission said that the constitutionality of 

the King's decision to surrender had to be placed within 

the setting of the last days of the campaign, particularly 

taking into account the propaganda leaflets dropped by 

the Germans telling the Belgian soldiers that the war was 

over and that their commanders had fled.^^ 

It was in order to denounce the German lie, to 
stimulate couj-age, and to steel his troops for the 
fierce resistance demanded by the military situation 
that the King notified his ministers as well as his 
soldiers of his order of the day May 25 j "Belgium 



See Chapter III, p. 72. 


Report , pp. 67-68. 




expects that you do honor to the flag. . . . what- 
ever happens, my fate will be yours." That order of 
the day was unquestionably a military act from the 
supreme command conferred upon Leopold derived by 
Article 6a of the Constitution as a necessary 
corollary of the duty which his constitutional oath 
imposes upon him (Article 20) "to maintain national 
independence and territorial integrity." Such an 
act does not have to be countersigned by a 
■ minister. ... On May 25, 1940, the King remained ' ' 
invested with all his prerogatives; he exercised all 
his functions, among them that of Commander-in- 
Chief of the Army. There does not exist any pre- 
eminence of one function over another and even if it 
were otherwise, one could decide that in the midst 
of battle, when not only the fate of the national 
army but also the fate of the Allied armies were • -^-q 

at stake, the function of Commander-in-Chief would ' r-ij 
have momentarily had precedence over the others by ' 'M 
the very force of things. 1 

However, it may be, the role of Commander-in- ' 

Chief of the Army does not consist only of assuming 
the direction of military operations but also of i 

assuring success and, as a consequence, to give the 
orders which, by reason of the fact at his coimnand 1 

and of which he is sole judge, are of such a nature I 

as to achieve that end. 

Thus on May 25, 1940, the King had the consti- 
tutional right to support his army using the noble 
language which expressed his order of the day. . . . 

In reality, it is the very workings of our ^ 

constitutional institutions which, by conferring ' 

various duties upon the King, have placed him, by .:1 

reasons of the events which our constituent fathers 'I 
could not have foreseen, in the position to make a /'.Z 
dboice for which he could not be reproached without . ••?'' 
^at the same time/ reftising to recognize his consti- ••■■^' ' 
tutional power as Commander-in-Chief of the Army. ^3 '';; 

The Commission summarized its findings on the " >i 
constitutionality of the surrender: I 

Our Commission is of the opinion that by • i 

remaining with his army and by choosing the position , i^ 

of prisoner of war, the King did not misconstrue '-'-i 

■• ■ '' '--'t 



^^ Ibld .. p. 71. 
-"See Chapter III, pp. 95-99, 
Report . p. 89, 

• ' ■ 183 

his constitutional duties. He adopted the solution 
which, according to him, the military situation 
demanded. . . .24 ., 

The remaining six chapters of the Report were 

devoted to a defense of the position taken by King 

Leopold after the capitulation and a refutation of the ' 

accusations made by Van Acker and Spaak in July, I945. . 

The Commission contended that Leopold never changed his 

position as announced at Berne on June 2, 1940.^^ The 

^QP°^t quoted the following memorandum written by the 

King on June 1, 1940, to help document this position: 


Position of Belgium vis-a-vis England and ■ ' •- -j 
., France: until now we have fulfilled all our V .< J 

engagements of neutrality and of war. Now so '' ' 

long as our territory serves hostilities we have 
the duty not to allow the country to take part in i 

any action against those who were at its side in ; 
the battle. ' ! 

Position of Belgium vis-a-vis Germany: forced J 

by events, we can only accept that our territory be ^ 

used for military operations. Therefore, no possi- - 

ible negotiations as long as the territory is used 
to aid in the hostilities. ,,■.---;: 

Position of the Head of State: difficult be- 
cause of the mentality of many Belgians and because ' 
Ox the position taken by the Government at Poitiers. 
As a consequence, the Head of State can take part 
in no political action as long as the country is 
sued for military ends. 26 

It appears that although King Leopold took this 
position on June 2, I940, he changed his mind before the 
end of the summer of I94O. It is significant that the 

V- r 


Commission, defending Leopold* s behavior and denying the ' 

accusations made against him, always harks back to this l 

document and the evidence presented on Jiine 2 at Berne. ^ 

The Report fails to show later positive evidence to , ; ^ j 

^ corroborate this position, saying that any interpretation 

of the behavior attributed to the King which went counter ^ 


to this position was either false or misconstrued. The 

Report presented evidence that on May 26, 1940, and on 

three occasions in July, 1940, various groups or persons v-ii 

approached the palace with suggestions that the King form 


a government. The Commission believed that the King»s 

refusal to act on these suggestions was proof that he 
intended to take no part in political action. This is not 
sufficient proof. First, there was no evidence that the 

Germans either proposed or would have tolerated such a ' 

government, nor any Vichy-like arrangement. Seccaid, and 

more important, the policy of attentisme. as a hedge 

against the future, was clearly a political action though ■ 

it did not go to the extent of full identification with ■ 

the enemy. (This would have made Leopold a German puppet.) ' 

Attentisme meant "wait and see"; a pro-German government 

would have meant positive comxaitment to the enemy, not 

"wait and see." But "wait and see" alone constituted po- J 

litical action and contravened the statement of June 2, 1940. 

^"^ Ibid .. pp. 98-101. 



The Defense of the King Againat the Specif i c Accu£ia-^j en.., 
made bv the Government .. „ .. ."^r. ^ 

Frederic q*s note and the d^Urael telegram . ».Thft 
^®P°^^ ^^^ this to say about the note from Louis Fredericq 
to Le Tellier and d»Ursel: 

■;, . The King was called upon at a moment (August, 

1940} when the Government was dispersed to advise ■' 
Mr. De Vleeschauwer who had taken the initiative 
which had provoked this advice. He ^he King/ was - 
preoccupied lest he should deviate from the views 
■ which he knew to be those of the Government, ^t the 
, same time he v/ished to respect the international 
engagements entered into by Belgium. Hence, the- -■ 
note of the chef de cabinet which, after having 
recalled the eiitent of our international agreements, 
contained the following counsel: not to engage 
military forces beyond the territory of the colony, 
. ■;' to avoid public declarations regarding the Congo 
(in order to preveiit reprisals, and in case of 
attack, to resist £the aggressor/. 26 

Regarding d»Ursel»s note relaying Frede'ricq^s 
Information to De Vleeschauwer the Report said only 
that d«Ursel»s opinions were contrary to those of the 
King»s as presented by Fredericq and that nowhere in 
the Fredericq note had the words "absolute neutrality" 
been used. The Report implied that the King's position 
taken on June 2 (i.e., that Belgium was still at war) 
remained in effect. D»Ursel»s letter to the Belgian ' 
diplomatic posts throughout the world was dismissed by 
the Commissioners merely as a compound of his original 
error: "We state that the two letters of the Count 
d»Ursel restated and developed the same theme expressed in 


See Chapter V, pp. 147-150. 

1^6 I 

his telegram to De Vleeschauwer which we have shown not ! 

to correspond to the thoughts of the King. "29 i 

Contrary to the defense made in the Report . King ■■■-'''■'M 
Leopold was exercising a political role by advising De ^ ■'! 
Vleeschauwer. It must be remember that De Vleeschauwer ' :sS 
was the Administrator-General of the Belgian Congo and 
Ruanda -Urundi. As far as these two territories were con- 
cerned, De Vleeschauwer exercised an absolute authority 
legitimately received from the Government- in-Exile. One 
must remember that De Vleeschauwer had not sought Leopold* s 
advice. Moreover, at the time of De Vleeschauwer »s actions 
Leopold was no longer the acting executive. The 
Government-in-Exile had constitutionally assumed this 
function in May, I940. Finally, Leopold had already said 
that he would not involve himself in political affairs. 
Considering these facts, Leopold* s interference was tanta- 
mount to interference with the Government itself. 

The interview at BerGhtess;adf>n .— th^t^a were only 
two accounts of the interview, one written by Hitler* s 
interpreter, Paul Schmidt, and the other written by King 
Leopold. The Government based its indictment on Schmidt ♦s ■ rii 
notes; the rebuttal made by the Commission was based on 
the King*s account and on memoranda written by General 




^ Report , p. 107. 


Van Overstraeten, Leopold»s aide-de-camp , before and 
after the meeting. 

The Commission denied the Government's accusation 
that Leopold had solicited the audience with Hitler. It 
rejected Van Acker* s assertation that the King "not only 
participated in the interview but that he was the first 
to bring up the political problems such as the maintenance 
of the Saxe-Coburg dynasty, the Belgian military regime, 
the control by Germany of our foreign affairs, etc."^^ 
The Commissioners pointed out that iimaediately after the 
capitulation Hitler had sought an interview which Leopold 
refused. Again, it was Hitler who brought up the question 
of a meeting with Leopold at an interview between the 
Fuhrer and Leopold's sister, the Princess of Piedmont, on 
October 17, 1940. The Report also mentioned that Colonel 
Goldhammer, acting in the absence of Van Falkenhausen, 
the German governor of Belgium, had told Van Overstraeten 
on November 1, 1940, that Germany had already lost the 
war because of the failure to exterminate the British at 
Dunkerque. The Report commented: . ... ' 

In passing, let us note that last phrase. That'' 
indiscretion committed by a high German military 
man could not have escaped the King and therefore it 
is perfectly ridiculous to suppose that by accepting 


^ ^Ibld .. p. 109. 


Hitler's Invitation, the Sovereign would have aided 
the enemy as some have wished to insinuate. 31 

It appears even more ridiculous that a casual 
statement made by a German colonel in November 1940, 
shcaild have caused a total re-evaluation of Germany's 
future at a time when she was at the height of her success 

To give further evidence that the audience had not 
been solicited, the Commission quoted frcm the memoranda 
written by Van Overstraetent 

The King is preparing himself steadfastly for 
his difficult duel. He has conferred with me on . ^< 
several occasions. It has been decided that his 
leitmotif will be Belgium's material and moral 
distress. ... It did not escape the King's obser- 
vation that the Fuhrer might propose that he re- 
assume the exercise of his authority. To such 
proposal he intends to offer an absolute refusal. 
He does not intend to exercise authority or to com- 
mit any political act in enemy-occunied territory. 
He will suggest at the proper time the creation of 
a sort of Economic Directory composed of the most 
illustrious men from the world of industry and 
finance, empowered to organize the economic life of 
Belgium (in reality to defend our interests against 
the occupant.) It goes without saying that the 
Directory would have no political attributes»32 

The Commission coiamented: 

From this text which gives the theses of the 
repeated conversations which the King had with his 
aide-de-camp one can deduce that the atmosphere at 
the Palace of Laeken, a week before the interview 
at Berchtesgaden, was neither one of defeatism nor 
collaboration. The King knew that the interview 
would be difficult, and he prepared for it with great 


2^Ibid., p. Ill, 
^^ Ibid . 
^^ Ibid .. p. 112 

.- J 

The Commission wrote about the interview Itself » 

o V, J^" ^°^P^^ing the version of the King with that of 
Schmidt, one finds in each docviment a certain amount 
Of agreement concerning those questions raised by 
Hitler and by the King respectively, but the Schmidt 
.. document attributes to the Sovereign a certain number 
of declarations of which one scarcely finds a trace 
in the account established by the King. 34 

The following conversation between Hitler and 

Leopold was taken from the notes written by the King. The 

reader can compare this account with that written by the 

interpreter Schmidt and quoted by the Government in its '^■^^ 
indictment. 35 , 

Hitler asks the King if he had any personal wishes. 
The King responds that he has none. wisnes. 

Sitler: I wanted to know if you have any personal ■ 
views concerning the future of your country. 

Bfr^V ^^i^^'t several, but they are all sub- 
ordinate to the first j I would like to have as- 
surances regarding the re-establishment of my 
countryts independence. Before treating the other . 
points, I would like to be enlightened on that 

Hitler answered with prudence. He gave hia 
views regarding Europe: All the countries of 
Europe should reach an understanding on economic 
^^"'^^^s^^^^^^se the war could be Img. Everyone 
should try to make the best of the affair. 

^^^ ^^"^ insists t What will be the future of Belgium? 

Hitley t There are two areas in which "the small 

«2!;S J !^\J^°^^?^^ Holland and Belgium, which have 
served as the glacis against Germany, must submit: 


3^Ibid., p. 113. 

«^ „ . ^^^®® Chapter V, pp. I5O-I52. A point by point 
comparison cannot be made because Lp.onnlrf wi L T^ 
ranHiim ^r, i-v,^ f^ 4. ^^"*=' uecause i-eopold wrooe his memo- 
?M;?^r^ ^^^^^ person whereas Schmidt wrote only a 
third-person sumioary of the audience. 


the military and the area of foreign affairs. In 
internal affairs, you can do what you wish. Germany 
is not here to play governess for the little countries. 

At the very end of the interview the King returned 
to the question of independence. 

The KinfT comes back to his original idea: May I give 
the assurance, when I return to Belgivim, that our 
independence will be re-established? 

Hitler; I would appreciate it if you said nothing '^^ 
for the moment. I would like to assure you that I 
will not touch your House whatever happens. ' ■ 

The King does not say anything. ^^ ' ' 

The Commission then concluded: " ; ''V ' '" 

■.. '■'/.. •'i-., . '■■'■''..•. 

Our Commission thinks it necessary to show how the 
journey to Berchtesgaden remains within the line of 
behavior which the King has followed from the inter- 
view with his ministers at Wynendaele. The King was 
not ignorant of the dangers of a meeting with Hitler. 
Van Overstraeten»s notes speak of a "dangerous duel. . 
. .»• Nevertheless, if the Sovereign responded to the 
^"'•er^s invitation at the risk of being reproached 
for having abandoned his reserve as prisoner of war 
and of having the trip unfavorably interpreted, he 
only did it for the reasons he gave on May 25, I94O, 
for wanting to stay in Belgium if he was forced to 
capitulate: "I am convinced that I can serve my 
people better by remaining with them than by attempt- 
ing to act from abroad, notably against the rigors of 
foreign occupation, the menace of forced labor or 
deportation and the difficulties of provisioning." 
These are the terms of his letter to the King of 
England and before reading it /to his minister^/ he 
had said to them: "Beyond the most substantial 
considerations from the point of view of logic or 
politics there are reasons of sentiment which one ' " 
cannot bypass." We believe^these words shed light on 
the trip to Berchtesgaden. 3 7 


Report , p. 1124.. 



.;;'-•* V 


The matter is further complicated by the fact 
that the "Schmidt report" used in Belgium after World 
War II was not complete and did not represent, as Schmidt 
has pointed out in his book, Hitler *s Interpreter , the 
entire account Schmidt made of the Berchtesgaden meeting."^ 
Schmidt pointed out in his book that although Leopold had v;I*| 
solicited the interview, probably at the instigation of 
his sister, Marie-Jose, he did not appear to be an eager 
guest nor was Hitler an eager host. Schmidt wrote that 
Leopold gave every indication that he had come to make 
nonpersonal requests of Hitler, but Schmidt never said 
what these requests were. On the crucial issue of who in- 
itiated the discussion of political issues (the Govern- 
ment had stated that it was Leopold who had broached the 
questions) Schmidt ♦s account in Hitler* s Interpreter 
stated that, after the preliminary amenities. Hitler began 
one of his long monologues about the future of Europe. 
In the middle of it, he asked Leopold how he saw futvire 
relations between Germany and Belgivim. Leopold, Schmidt 
wrote, replied with a counter question i Would Belgium re- 
cover her independence at the end of the war? Schmidt 
stated that Leopold came back to this question again and 
again, with Hitler's irritation rising at each restate- 
ment. Leopold kept insisting upon a guarantee of Belgian 

<- •" Paul Schmidt, Hitler's Interpreter (New York: 
The Macmillan Company, 1951), pp. 201-205. 


independence which Hitler refused to give. Schmidt wrote 
that eventually Leopold and Hitler became mutually an- 
tagnostic, and the meeting was broken off much earlier 
than had been planned for by the Fuhrer . The meeting had 
accomplished nothing either for Leopold or Hitler. Tea ' 
was served afterv/ard because it had already been prepared, 
but the atmosphere was not pleasant. At tea, and this was 
not mentioned in the Government »s indictment, it was ' 
Hitler who tried to persuade Leopold to reconsider his 
suggestion for closer collaboration between Germany and 
Belgium, but the King remained silent . . ' • 

It appears that Leopold did solicit the interview 
and had certain questions to put to Hitler. However, in 
I^itler*g Interpreter it was not made clear whether among 
these questions was any of political importance. After 
the failure to receive Hitler* s guarantee of Belgian 
postwar independence, Schmidt wrote that Leopold withdrew 
into his regal dignity and refused further to negotiate. 
Yet after weighing all the accounts it seems that none of 
the evidence either in the "Schmidt report" or in Hitler* a 
interpreter is fatal to the Government»s fundamental ^ ' 
point, i.e., that it was wrong to have any contact with 
Hitler. No amount of evidence about Leopold »s unwilling- 
ness to attend or his aloofness during the meeting weakens 
the Government »s contention that to agree to such a 
meeting constituted treating with the enemy. 


^93 j 

The Commissioners believed that Schmidt»s "report" 
was fraudulent. Even though a careful reading of the ' 

"report" would indicate that Schmidt was not hostile to ,■.■ 
Leopold, he did state clearly that it was Leopold and not 
Hitler who had solicited the interview, a ccaitradiction of 
the basic fact upon which the defense made its case in , , ..J 
regard to the meeting at Berchtesgaden. The Commissioners* 
interpretation is inadequate. First, there is no evi- '' V; 
dence presented that would indicate what Hitler»s strategy- 
might have been. In other words, the Commission never 
showed what might have been the advantage to Hitler for ,■ ■• '|5 
soliciting the interview. Second, in November, 1940, . ,-:^ 
Hitler was the conqueror of Europe. It does not appear 
that, at that time, he would have had any particular plan 
in mind for Belgium other than the general plan for Europe 
as a whole or would have had any particxilar ax© to grind 

. ...■-. >-«j 
■ ■'. ,. ■ '.TJ 

against Leopold personally which would have necessitated 

a "reinterpretation" of a past interview. Third, in the 

light of the postwar accusations made against Leopold, it 

was very much to the King's advantage to shift the re* •■ -'i 

sponsibility for initiating the "political" part of the : -/^ 

interview to the dead and defeated Hitler. 

It appeared in the Schmidt "report" written in , ■ . . ..ii 

1940 that Leopold had initiated the political discussions 


while in Schmidt's book written after the war, the in- • 

itiative was shifted to Hitler. One can only conjecture 


at this discrepancy. In the dispute between King and 

Government, Schmidt's automatic sympathies would probably 

have been with Leopold, and the book would reflect this. 

Although the relationship between Hitler and Leopold had 

not been cordial, Leopold was never openly anti-German, 

and his policy of attentisme was adaptable to a German 

victory. After the war. King Leopold was one of the few 

major figures, whose relationship with Hitler had not 

been totally unfriendly, who had not yet been repudiated 

by his people. It is not illogical to suppose that ' 

Schmidt might have tried to do what he could to help . ''^^ 

Leopold keep his throne. 

The second marriage Perhaps the weakest part of 

the report was the attempt to prove the constitutionality 
of the King's second marriage. This part almost defies ; 
a clear presentation here. The marriage was unconstitutional 
beyond doubt, but the effort to disprove this fact was so 
ludicrous that it only more clearly underlined its ille- 
gality. To be sure, the marriage was a tangential issue 
to the royal question, but the arguments used to prove Its 
conetltutionality gave strong evidence to the lengths to 
which the Commission would go in order to make a point . 
The reasoning belled the objectivity claimed by the Report . 

The Report stated that at the time the consit- 
tution was drawn up in I83I the political nature of the 
king's marriage was recognized by those who framed the 


document, but the manner in which the marriage contract 
was to be approved and executed was not spelled out but 
left "under the guidance of the general principles of the 
constitution. "39 ^^e Commission pointed out that "on the 
morrow of the proclamation of the Constitution, the 
question was at least implicitly resolved at the time of 
the marriage of King Leopold I. A responsible minister 
intervened and approved this act."^*^ 

V/as this by accident? One cannot believe that 
the Government was able to ignore the debate which 
had taken place at the Congress a few months earlier 
/.i.e., debates over the technicalities of the Sover- 
eign's marriage/, and, in any case, one fact remains, 
that the marriage of King Leopold I was counter- 
, signed by a responsible minister. 

The marriage of His Majesty King Leopold III and 
Miss Liliane Baels was not like that. As a conse- 
quence, holding to constitutional principles and to 
the only precedent which can be invoked in the 
history of Belgium, one should say that, as It was 
celebrated, the second marrisge of King Leopold III 
could not have any political consequences. His 
wife could not become Queen, and his descendants -" 
springing from that marriage could not pretend to 
the constitutional rights reserved to the royal 
princes. ^-^ 

Moreover, the Commission remarked: 

If the legal disposition regulating the manner in 
which civil and religious marriages are celebrated 
were not respected, the reasons must be attributed to 
the exceptional clrciuastances of the moment and of 
the wishes of the King and of his future wife who 

3^Ibid. , p. 140. 



Ibid ., p. 141. 

'See Chapter V, pp. 154-155 . 
Report , p. 145. 



understood that their marriage could not have any 
effect under public law.^^ 

It is difficult to understand how the clear precedent of ^ kj 

' ■'% 
requiring ministerial countersignature for a royal '^"M 

marriage contract could be turned into its exact opposite 

simply because the King had chosen to wed a commoner and -a 

because circiimstances were "exceptional. « '. ''i| 

The depo rtation .— Van Straalen's account of his 

meeting with King Leopold was the basis of the Government»s 

accusations that the King had solicited his own depor- ■ * 

tation. The Comraission pointed out that on July 8, 1945, 

Van Straelen denied authorship of the document to 

Leopold* s secretary, Jacques Pirennes 

Pirenne affirmed that in the conversation which N' v 

took place Van Straelen formally declared to him .,:'': 

that the Government had no document coming from him, ■ ' V- 
that he had never written such a dociiment, that if 
someone claimed possession of it, it would be a 
forgery, and that he was ready to confirm his decla- 'i^'^ 
ration in writing. . . .44 — ? 

However, on July 21, when Pirenne asked for the 
written statement, Van Straelen refused to sign. The 
Commission wrote that irrespective of the refusal, the ' ' ;, 
Van Straelen document did not dovetail with the following .vp'l 
facts: - ^^ 

42 ''■"■ 

Ibid., p. 139. Was the Report saying that the ^■^'''J^ 

best way to show the unique nature of the marriage was I 

to show that it was not legal? -.'M 

The Commission observed: 

c) On June 6, 1944, King Leopold had written 

General Alexander Von Falkenhausen, the German 
governor of Belgium, protesting his depor- 
tation. 47 

^^ Recueil . p. 509. 

Report, p. 147. The statement defending Canaris* 
veracity was necessary in the light of the Report* a con- 
demnation of the veracity of another German — Schmidt. 


Recueil . p. 5I3. 


■•• • ■. 197 

a) On July 25, 1945, Cardinal Van Roey stated 
officially that many times during the occu- 
pation King Leopold had expressed the desire 
to be in Belgitim at the time of liberation. 45 

b) Constantin Canaris, the head of the Gestapo 
in Belgiiom, testified after the war that the 
deportation of the King had caused confusion 
in Germany. Kaltenbrunner, Himmler»s adjutant, 
had ordered Canaris on June 6, 1944, to place 
Leopold under guard and move hiai out into 

Germany. Canaris protested to Kaltenbrunner ; 

that Germany's most important prisoner should ■ ;:^?i 

not be handled in such fashion. Kaltenbrumner 

answered that the orders had come from Hitler 

and Himmler and were t^ be obeyed without :.-"i'.4 

further delay. Later in Germany Leopold com- 1 

plained to Hitler that he was dissatisfied with 

his place of imprisonment and preferred a 

chateau in the mountains. Canaris testified J 

that Hitler had asked v/hy the King had been ' ' ' 

taken in such haste. Hitler told that the v 

orders had come from Himmler through • ; v--^ 

Kaltenbrunner. ■ '*- 




Of course, Canaris is a German, but it does not 
appear that under the circumstances he had any par- 
ticular interest in denying the tinith. ... If the 
deportation had been solicited, at the time of 
Canaris* protestations to Kaltenbrunner, faced with fti 
the hesitations to execute his orders, the latter 'd'^^ 

would have iimnediately calmed and reassured /Caxi&vtg/ ■ >-»vi;- 

by telling him, if it had been true, that the depor- ■'.■>^- 
tation was desired by the King.^^ . ;' 



d) On the same day, June 6, I944, Leopold wrote 
a proclamation to his subjects stating that 
he was being deported against his will.^° 

e) On June 9, 1944, the Princess de Rethy of- 
ficially protested against her deportation and 
that of the royal children. ^° 

f) Prince Baudouin (age I4) wrote to one of hia 
friends: "I 'm writing a short letter to you 

;.<,;• . before leaving for captivity in Germany. It 
■'■.■.-'' is a terrible thing, but events demand it.»»50 

g) At the day of the deportation of the Princess 
de Rethy and of the royal children. Prince 
Baudouin was recuperating from scarlet fever 
and his brother. Prince Albert, had the mumps. 

h) At Hirchstein in Germany, the royal family 
was treated as prisoners in a castle guarded 
by armed troops and police dogs. 

All these things, the Commissioners remarked 
"scarcely harmonize with a desired and solicited depor- 
tation or one accorded as a favor by the Germans." 

These versions scarcely harmonize with what « " 
reasonable person would consider legitimate. The protes- 
tations of the King and the Princess de Rethy could easily 
have been a formality to rid themselves of responsibility 
and to court public sympathy, and the corroborative evi- 
dence of the Cardinal Archbishop is highly suspect con- 
sidering that even in Belgium he is more royalist than the 

Ibid . . p. 514. 

IMd. , p. 514. 

50 , 

Ibid ., p. 515. ^ 





King. Prince Baudouin»8 letter is foolsih evidence. ■ 
Surely the Comiaission did not mean to suggest that a -. 
fourteen-year-old boy was kept au courant with the po- 
litical machinations of his father and the palace entou- 
rage. Nor was the illness of the two princes of such a 
nature as to delay the execution of a long-planned event. 
Prince Baudouin was already on the road toward recovery 
from scarlet fever and the mumps could not be considered 
a particxilarly deadly disease. Moreover, a doctor ac- 
companied the royal family to Germany. 

The remaining charges.— Othf^r significant charges 
made against the King by Van Acker received only passing 
reference, if any reference at all, in the Report . The 
telegram of condolence to the King of Italy was not dis- 
cussed; the telegram to Hitler on his birthday was dis- 
missed in these words: 

It has no importance from the moment that one 
knows that it was Colonel Kiewitz who alone was 
responsible for sending the greetings. Transmitting 
a humanitarian request to Berlin on behalf of the 
King, Kiewitz, on his own initiative, included the 
birthday greetings to Hitler as if they had come 
spontaneously from the King. 51 

The trips to Austria were not mentioned, and Leopold's 

entourage, to vAiose influence the indictment attached such 

great significance, concerned the Commissioners almost not 

at all. Because the Government itself was not prepared to 


Report , p. 118. 







pass Judgment on the attitudes of various members of the 

King's entourage, the Commission saw no reason why it 

should take these attitudes into consideration. If it did 

so, the Coimnission thought that it would only: ,:,...,,.-, 

... go beyond its mission, but it feels that it 
should reveal and vmderline here, the only point v^ich 
.^, should retain our attention, that in any case, the 
>^ attitude of the King was always that which he had an- 
,: nounced that it would be: total abstention from all 

political action. Thus, he refused to receive Journal- 
ists who wrote during the occupation, and he like- 
wise avoided all contact with politicians \^o 
y recommended a less retiring attitude. Far from re- 
|, nrining indifferent to the complacent or submissive 
« acts of Belgians toward the enemy, he personally seized 
I the few occasions which were given to him to give 
'% testimony to his disapproval. 52 

Siimmarv and Conclusions ... , . . :.•• 

.■•: The Commission summarized its findings about the 

actions and attitudes of the King in this manner: r."- ., 

Under all circumstances, the King appeared to have 
had the will to obey his conscience, a conscience 
; inspired by the acts of his illustrious predecessors. 
At no time did he lose sight of the responsibilities 
which were incumbent on him as a result of the great 
position which he symbolized and of which he had the 
duty to assure their posterity. Moreover, we have 
seen him, faced with the most complex situations, 
trying to discern and conciliate his various duties 
in order to remain, at the moment of national dis- 
tress, faithful to the solemn engagement which he 
made in the speech from the throne at the time of hia 
accession: "I give all of myself to Belgium. "53 

In short, the Commission ended its Report where it began. 
Leopold had done his duty under the Constitution in the 

Ibid ., p. I3I4.. 

^■^ikid., p. 151. 


m^j^t of his conscience. He was not guilty of having 
acted unconstitutionally but of having evaluated the situ- 
ation between I94O and l9Mf in the light of different 
criteria than those used by the Government and Parliament. 
Consequently, the people of Belgium should now be given 
a chance to decide whether they considered the course of 
action piirsued by Leopold or that pursued by Cabinet and 
Parliament as the correct one. Never did the Commission 
admit the proposition on which a constitutional monarchy 
must rest in a democratic age: that the monarch can act 
only on the advice of responsible ministers, and that to 
do otherwise would not only violate the "rules of the 
game" of the Belgian constitution as these had developed 
r- ,< under Leopold's predecessors, but would also constitute 
'•-u:. an attempt to return to the predemocratic, preconsti- 
tutional forms of the eighteenth century. i" ' ' ; 


.«. 'JV. 

The Two-Year Stalemate 

The decision had nothing to do with the royal 
question; Communist withdrawal from the government in 
Belgium was following a pattern seen throughout Europe. 
On May 5, 1947, they left the government in France. 


The Commission's Report failed to gain converts to 
the cause of Leopold III. The four major political parties 
maintained their positions, and the royal question contin- 
ued to await the deciding voice of the Belgian people. In , 
the meantime, however, an armed truce was declared in '">«! 

Parliament. The Leopold affair was put aside so that the 
nation could go about other business vdiich had been delayed 
too long, above all postwar reconstruction. In March, 1947, 
the same month in which the Report appeared, the tripartite 
Left bloc which had governed Belgium since July, I946, was 
forced to resign when the Communist ministers withdrew 
from the Cabinet so that their party might go into opposi- 
tion. The government that was formed to replace the bloc 

proved that for the time being the royal question was to 

. ''■''■I 
be "ignored." The Socialists and the Catholics, the . -' ' 



leading antagonists in the affair, governed In coalition 
under the premiership of Paul-Henri Spaak until the elec- 
tion of June, 1949. 

Only two significant voices were heard during this 
two-year armed truce — the voice of Hubert Pierlot, the 
Prime Minister of the exiled war government, and that of 
Victor Larock, a Walloon Socialist. Pierlot had heretofore 
taken no part in the controversy over Leopold, but the 
findings and conclusions of the Report prompted him to 
speak. He published a series of twelve articles entitled 
Pages d*Hlstoire which appeared consecutively in the inde- 
pendent Brussels newspaper Le Solr beginning July 5, 1947. 
The articles were important because they were written by 
one of the men most intimately involved at the beginning 
of the royal question and particularly because that man was 
a prominent Catholic at odds with the policy of his party 
regarding King Leopold. Pierlot »s articles defended his 
own behavior and that of his Government from May, I94O, 
until September, 1944, and supported the position taken on 
the royal question by the parties of the Left. In short, 
it was not so much the content but the source of the arti- 
cles which was significant. 

With two exceptions the articles which concerned 
the conduct of the war, the relationship between the King 
and the Cabinet during the eighteen-day campaign, and the 
months of confusion during the summer and fall of I94O 



added nothing that was not already known. Indeed, they 
seemingly were written with a single purpose: to recall 
the memory of that period and to create a climate of opin- 
ion unfavorable to the King. They resembled the speeches 
made by Paul-Henri Spaak on July 24 and 25, I945. Never- 
theless, Pierlot did make two valuable contributions. 
First, he placed the royal question in its historic per- 
spective, pointing out that the separation of King and 
Cabinet on May 25, 1940, was the final episode in a long 
developing controversy between Leopold and the government 
over what lay within the range of monarchical authority^;. .?! 
Pierlot spoke briefly of the circiomstances of the prewar 
period that had forced Leopold to play an active role in 
Belgian affairs, a role which Leopold, abetted by Louis ""'^■ 
Wodon, had not considered as extraordinary but as normal, 
provided one accepted his conception of the role of the 
sovereign. Pierlot commented: 

The reinforcement of the personal role of the • 
King in the policy of independence and soon after-"' 
ward in his functions as Commander-in-Chief accen- :.' 
tuated a disposition which under ordinary circtua- ■ ' 
stances doubtlessly would never have had appreciable 
consequences because the King was not a fascist as 
it has been alleged and he did not think of going 
beyond legal means. "^ 

In spite of this statement, Pierlot gave startling evidence 
of what Leopold considered "legal means," and this 

^Le Soir. July ?, 1947, p. 1. 

•- *i 


constituted Plerlot«s second contribution. He helped to 
clafiry the basic issue of the royal question, i.e., the 
controversy over personal monarchical prerogative under the 
Constitution, by showing to what dangerous lengths this 
personal interpretation of the prerogative could lead. 
On January 10, 1940, during the "phony war," a 
German plane came down in Belgivun, allegedly because of 
motor trouble. The captixred pilots carried papers (which 
they succeeded partially in destroying) which revealed the 
German invasion plan of Belgium and Holland. Pierlot 
wrote that the Belgian government could not determine 
whether or not the landing was a German trick calculated 
to cause panic among the Belgians and to prompt their 
appeal for Allied aid under the 1937 agreement. Such 
action would have given the Genaans a legitimate excuse to 
invade "aggressive" Belgium. The Government decided there- 
fore to increase national watchfulness but to take no other 
action. King Leopold, on the other hand, on January 14, 
1940, made inquiries in Great Britain: 

Without consulting a single minister, the King 
took it upon himself to ask of the British government, 
through the intermediacy of Admiral Keyes, what would 
be the guarantees given to Belgiuim in case she were 
to call for Anglo-French assistance. The question 
was put by the Admiral to Chamberlain on the morning 
of the 14th. 

The King received the answer of the British 
government from Keyes on the morning of the 15th. The 
British were prepared to enter Belgium, adding that 
as far as they knew, the French were ready to do the 


same thing. The response contained an enximeration 
of the gxiarantees.3 

The inquiries were interpreted in London and Paris as an 
appeal by Belgiiim under the terms of the 1937 agreement, 
and Allied troops were massed alonj^ the Franco-Belgian 
border. When Daladier informed the Belgian Ambassador on 
January 15 that the troops were in place, the Ambassador 
had not the slightest idea what the French Premier was 
talking about. When the Ambassador questioned his govern- 
ment in Brussels, the Ministers were equally in the dark. 

In the meantime, a meeting had been held on January 
13 in the office of the chief of the Belgian general staff. 
General Vandenbergen. It was decided, again without the 
knowledge of the Government, to lower the barricades which 
had been placed in the roads along the southern (i.e., 
French) border. 

The first night (the 14 th) at one a.m. the 
order was given to the southern frontier posts to 
allow Allied troops to enter if they were to 
arrive. These decisions were taken in the pres- 
ence of and with the agreement of General Van 
Overs traeten /^-sopold^s aide-de-camp/ who was 
present at the conference. The Government was 
neither consulted nor informed.^ 

When the Government became aware of what had happened, the 

^ Ibid .. July 9, 1947, p. 1. 
^ Ibid .. p. 2. 


order was revoked, and Vandenbergen offered his resignation 
which was accepted. 

In the presence of these facts, two questions 
present themselves: why was General Vandenbergen 
designated as the author of the order sent on the 
night of January 13-14? Why did Vandenbergen accept 
the sanctions without any reservation? I can find 
no other answer than thiss the head of the general 
staff agreed to "cover" the King vis-i-vis the 
Government . 5 

Pierlot went on to give more evidence of the per- 
sonal nature of Leopold* s authority. The reader will 
recall that on May 25, 1940, Leopold read to his Ministers 
the letter which he had prepared to send to the king of 
England. Pierlot commented: '■<■■'■'' 

The King came back time after time to that 
ijiea which drove him on: to obey his conscience, 
/to do/ his duty. In his letter to the king of 
England . . . the King wrote: "In spite of all 
the contrary advice which I have received, I feel 
that my dutv commands me . ... If I felt I was 
able to act in that way then I would abandon the 
mission which I have assigned to myself . 

"The mission which I have assigned to myself." 
Isn«t that statement striking? The inspiration 
which the King followed was of an indisputable 
grandeur, but irrespective of how imperative the 
voice of conscience, it is not sufficient to guide 
those who govern. They have to keep in mind the 
rules of positive law, at least under a constitu- 
tional regime. Faced with a decision of the great- 
est seriousness, the King decided to recognize no 
other law than the opinion he had formed of his 
duty. That way of viewing the royal function differs 
in no way at all from personal power. '^ 

^ Ibid . 

^See Chapter III, p. 91. 

"^ Le Soir . July 13, 1947, p. 1. 


The other voice heard diaring the two-year stale- 
mate was that of Victor Larock, a vValloon member of the 
House of Representatives who wrote a series of articles 
for the leading Belgian Socialist newspaper Le Peuple . 
Fifteen articles were published beginning September 23, 
1948, and were entitled " A Ouand la Lumiere ?" The arti- 
cles had only one purpose: to embarrass the King. They 
were a mixed bag of fact and insinuation baaed on Larock* s 
contention that Leopold had not believed in an Allied 
victory and had courted the Germans. Larock called 
Leopold* s policy attentisme and thus differs from the 
.... opinion of the present author only in one respect: Larock 
.••^ believed that Leopold thought conclusively that the Allies 
would be defeated. But if Leopold was convinced that 
Germany would be victorious, why play a game of "wait and 
see"? It seems illogical to charge, as Larock did, that 
Leopold practiced attentisme and also believed in an ulti- 
mate German victory: 

A treasonable policy? No, but one of supple 
accommodation. Not to be solidly with either 
belligerent; to ignore the resistance; to adjust 
to the "new order" in order to save the essential 
/things/* These were the principles of attentisme 
which the growing chances of liberation rendered 
more prudent but scarcely less pointed.^ 

Had Leopold believed in a conclusive German victory, a 

ft ■'' 

° Le Peuple . September 15, I9if8, p. 1. 


policy of "wait and see" would have been unwise. It was 
only because he could not know for sure that he adopted '•• 
attentlsme » However, attentisme as Leopold practiced it 
involved a calculated risk even if the Germans should win. 
Leopold would not openly collaborate with Hitler as many 
rulers and crowned heads had been only too willing to do. 
Thus Leopold was not completely "in favor" with Hitler, ' - 
although he was not completely "out of favor." At the 
meeting at Berchtesgaden in November, 1940, Hitler had 
assured Leopold that his throne would be safe after the - 
war. The visit to Berchtesgaden only deepened Leopold ♦s 
commitment to attentisme . Leopold had not been able to get 
Hitler to agree to a guarantee of Belgian independence 
after the war, and Hitler had not been able to convince 
Leopold openly to Join the Nazi cause. Thus the middle 
road was the only one left to Leopold. He had sought an 
audience which had produced nothing except perhaps the ill- 
will of Hitler. Leopold would not openly support the 
Allies because in 1940 it appeared that Germany would be 
victorious, yet he had refused to commit himself whole- 
heartedly to the German cause. 

The subtlety involved here is peripheral to the 
main issue of the royal question, i.e., whether or not the 
King could formulate and follow a policy not approved by 
responsible ministers. But since at this point (1948) 
Leopold still hoped to have his policy weighed favorably 



■ ..-iK^,.. 

• . \'- -V 210 

against that of the Government, this nuance is significant 
in considering the moral culpability of the King, the most 
vital of all considerations in the mind of the average 
Belgian. < 

Larock built his case not by speaking against 
Leopold but by speaking against his entourage, principally 
Louis Fredericq and Count Capelle, and by denying the con- 
tention of the Commission's Report that Fredericq and 
Capelle had maintained contact with various known collab- 
orators in a personal capacity only without the knowledge 
or approval of the King. 

Can we take issue with Coxint Capelle for having 
accepted the role of intermediary? No, to the extent 
that he only carried out orders. Didn't La Libre 
Belgiaue /the pro-Leopold, conservative Catholic 
Brussels newspaper/ write "Shouldn't a secretary be 
in rapport with his master?" The observation is only 
too true. But here is the delicate point: the 
collaborators whom the Count honored with his meetings 
saw ±n him the confidant of Leopold III. Received by 
him ^Capelle/ after having sought audience with the 
King, they were convinced that his opinions, his 
advice and counsel reflected the sentiments of the 
King. Count Capelle and the King himself could not 
have doubted that the interviews were interpreted in 
this manner. The activity of the collaborators was 
powerful. They openly supported the "new order"; 
they served the designs of the enemy. Moreover they 
made no secret of their relations with the Court. 
They took advantage of this to preserve and to fortify 
their esteem with their public if they were journal- 
ists, with their subordinates if they occupied high 

On January 9, 1944, Capelle wrote to De Becker, the Editor- 
in-Chief of Le Soir during the occupation: "I had the 

^Ibid. , August 23, 194S, p. 1. 




honor of giving your message to the King as well as a copy 

of the special issue of Le Soir devoted to Belgian unity. 

His Majesty was touched by the homage and asks me to thank 

you." Larock quoted a passage from that issue written 

by De Becker and praised by Capelle : .•....,,:,• .-,•,'. 

If we isolate ourselves we shall die. Tt no ■ , 
longer concerns us to choose our partners. . . . • 
Germany and England face each other in a duel to ■, 
death ... We have chosen. We have done so by " . 
revolutionary conviction and for love of Belgium..;; ' : 
The destiny of our country is linked to that of . • 
the continent, its prosperity to that of central 
Europe. By choosing Germany we choose Europe. 
Victorious Germany will expel England from the 
continent and will assure peace for a long time.-'-^ 

* - Larock then demanded that the investigation into 
CapelleVa activities during the occupation begun in 1946 
be continued. In the sximmer of 1946 a preliminary investi- 
gation was made into Capelle* s association with collabora- 
tionists. The investigation, conducted by a single judge 
without jury and attorneys, lasted for two years and ended 
with a non lieu , i.e., a declaration that there was not 
sufficient evidence for trial. The dossier compiled by the 
presiding judge, Hussart, was handed over to the Minister 
of Justice and was not made available to the public. 
Larock stated that a non lieu was decided because, had 
there been a subsequent trial, th^ King himself would have 

^^ Ibid .. August 24, 1948, p. 1. 



been exposed. Larock wrote that the preliminary investi- 
gation of Capelle revealed that Capelle had established 
contact with Robert Poulet, Editor of the pro-German 
magazine Nouveau Journal . ^^ and that after each of the 
interviews with Poulet as well as after all interviews 
with those involved in the collaboration, Capelle had given 
a written report to the King, keeping duplicate copies for 
his own files. -' Larock observed that contrary to former 
statements made by Count Capelle, those interviews were ■ 
not strictly private but were known, admitted, and con- 
trolled by King Leopold. It was revealed, too, that 
shortly before the opening of the investigation into 
Capelle ♦s activities in 1946 the Count had given to the 
King»s secretary, Jacques Pirenne, the above-mentioned 
duplicates as well as the memorandum book in which Capelle 
had noted down all appointments made during the occupation. 
King Leopold had both the originals and the duplicates but 
refused to make them public. Larock demanded that the 
truth be known claiming that the innocent had nothing to 
fear. " A quand la lumiera ?" 

Larock also discussed Leopold ♦s relations with the 
Legion Wallonie. a volunteer group of approximately 7,300 


See Chapter V, pp. 145-147. 


There were more than twenty of these interviews; 
contrary to an earlier statement made by Capelle that 
there had been only ten. 



Belgians who had fought with the Germans on the eastern 
front against the Russians. Larock believed that this was 
an unfortunate and pitiful group that had paid dearly for 
its political naivete losing 3,000 men in Russia. These 
men were not the usual breed of traitor; not all had been 
pro-German. Many were idealists who had hoped to rid the 
world of communism. Whatever their reasons for joining ' • 
the Legion. Larock claimed that all the men shared one 
characteristic — their devotion to Leopold. "The only 
certain fact which pleads incontestably for them is that 
they were never repudiated or undeceived by the King whom 
they believed they were serving. "^^ Next, Larock dealt 
with Capelle's denial that he had given any form of en- 
couragement to the Legion . The Count's statement had ap- 
peared in a letter to the editor of Le Peuole on July 11, 
1945. In that letter Capelle saids 

Never did I encourage or approve (in any form, 
written or verbal) the activities of the Legion 
"* vfallonie . Never did I think, say, or write that 
the oath of loyalty to the King was compatible with 
service in the Legion and with the oath to the Fuhrer . 
Any affirmation to the contrary is a lie. Any docu- 
ment declaring the contrary is false. ^^ 

Opposing this statement, Larock quoted an unidentified 



Le Peuple . September 6, l94d, p. 1. 


- 214 

Father F. /Fiereng/. the chaplain of the Le^glon 
who honored me with his friendship and who took me 
into his confidence on several occasions went back 
to Belgium on leave every two or three months. 

iifter having been received at the Palace of 
';• Brussels by Count Capelle, secretary of the King, ' ' 
he told me that the Count inquired about Coxmnander 
Lippert ^commandant of the Legion? whose brilliant 
qualities as an officer seemed to be known at the ; 
Palace. According to Father F., Count Capelle 
affirmed that^His Majesty King Leopold III con- 
sidered the Legion Wallonie a guarantee in case of 
a German victory, while the Belgian army at London 
was called to render the same service in case of an 
Allied victory. He held the two in equal esteem. ^° 

Larock supported the above statement by the following testi- 
mony given by former members of the Legion ; ► •• 

•V ^ A letter coming from the secretariat of the 
King and signed by Coimt Capelle was communicated 
to the troops at the time of its stay at camp v •. 
RegenwurmO-ager near Meseritz in August-September, 
1941. According to the letter the King authorized 
the active officers and noncommissioned officers 
who had sworn an oath to him to take part in the ...^ 
Legion Wallonie if they thought that to be their 
duty. (Testimony of Lt. R. SAfastiau, of Legionnaire 
A. Calui, of Lt. C. Peeters, and of Captain J. 
Vermeire. ) 

During the winter of 1941-1942, a telegram came 
from the Mais on du Roi to the Legion , which was at 
that moment in the Ukraine, confirming the royal 
approbation. (Testimony of Calui.) 

Father Fierens, chaplain of the Legion from 
1942 to 1944 was in regular contact with the 
entourage of the King and of the Archbishop. - -- 
(Testimony of Adjutant Cougnon.jl? 

Later on during the trial of Robert Poulet, Count 

^^Le Peuple. August 25, 194S, pp. 1-2. 
Ifeid'f September 6, I948, p. 2. 



Capelle modified his position concerning the Legion taken 

in the article written to Le Peuple in July, 1945: 

^ It is true that my purposes regarding the 
Legion were varied. That is explained by the 
fact that I had learned that Robert Poulet had 
told several persons that the Palace and Count 
Capelle approved his actions and his articles. 
As a consequence I thought it my duty to be 
particularly circumspect regarding that which he 
had said. I wanted to prevent the Germans, who 
would have been aware of any statement made by 
Poulet regarding that subject, from harboring 
resentment against the King for having concerned 
himself with political question. 

It was because of that same reason that I 
never told him poulet/ that he was wrong to 
praise the intentions of certain legionnaires, 
but I never told him that he was right. It was 
for the same reason of prudence that I told 
Poulet that if Lippert, the coimnandant of the 
Legion , requested an audience of the King, his 
request would be examined. 1^ 

In response to this Larock asked: "Could not this 

noncommittal position have been legitimately interpreted 

by the Legion as approval on the part of the King?" 

Finally, Larock presented evidence that Leopold 

-' had taken more than one trip to Austria during the occupa- 

f. tlon, The following testimony was given on October 23, 

1947, by L. Rieder, a German police official whose job it 

had been to accompany statesmen of occupied countries on 

their travels abroad. 

I was with the King of the Belgians at 
Heidelberg, Munich, and in Vienna where his jaw 
was operated on by a dentist who lived in the 

^^ Ibid . 



area of the city hall. A Belgian professor 
assisted at the operation. 

After that, the King went to the home of 
Count Kuhn at Nikolsburg close to the Czecko- 
slovakian border. He was there four weeks, 
going back to Vienna from time to time for 
treatment. At the end of September, 1940, he 
returned to Belgium passing through Munich and 

He returned to Nikolsburg in October, 1940 
<(!Xarock wrote in a footnote that the date was 
possibly an error in transcription and should 
read 1941/, going again to the home of Count Kuhn. 
This time he was accompanied by a woman. It was 
not imtil later that I learned that she was his 
. wife. He went to Heidelberg, Munich, and Vienna. 
After a visit of approximately four weeks he 
returned to Belgium. 19 

These articles by Pierlot and Larock did not change the 

basic issues of the royal question. They did, however, 

add weight to the moral culpability of the King, an issue 

of great importance during the two-year stalemate between 

March, 1947, and June, 1949. 

The Re lations between King and Government i I947-IQ49 

Upon taking office as Prime Minister, Paul -Henri 

Spaak told Parliament on March 25, 1947: 

, No fundamental agreement can be reached on 
the royal question. Each of the two parties 
maintains its position. Neither of the two asks 
the other to abandon any of its convictions. 
The royal question cannot be resolved at the 
present time, but the Government is conscious of 
the fact that it must promote an agreement 

^^Le Peuple. September 15, 1946, p. 2. 

■''*'.;. ■ ■ ^ ■' 217 

X '' ' 

between the parties in order to arrive at a 

solution which will respect our national insti- 
tutions. ^0 

Spaak himself broke the silence between the Government and 
the King in a letter to Leopold on September 25, igif?. 
Spaak wrote that he believed some solution could be ' '"" 
arrived at even though the parties remained adamant in 
their positions. He stressed that the dispute between the 
Government and the King was not a moral one but one exclu- 
sively political in nature; the honor of the King, he said, 
was not at issue. Although this statement contradicted 
Socialist opinion, Spaak commented: 

It seems to me that the general turn of 
events permits me to say that the Socialists, 
while continuing strongly to criticize the deci- 
sions taken by the King during the war, do not 
intend thereby to place in doubt the motives 
which inspired these decisions. Thus, the differ- 
ence, however important and serious it might be, 
which exists between the King and the Socialist 
party is of a purely political nature which does 
not have the delicate and painful character of a 
moral conflict. The Socialist party . . . appears 
to me to understand that it ought to be possible 
to eliminate from the discussion all /those things 
which/ might be an affront to the person of the 
King as well as to the intentions which guided him.^-^ 

It might appear odd that Spaak, whose accusations 

In 1945 were aimed principally at the moral behavior of 

20 /■ 

, , Rapport presente par le Secretariat du Roi sur 

les evenements p olitiaues qui ont suivi la liberation. Mai 

194^-Octobre iq^Q, p. HQ. This will be cited henceforth 

as Rapport prfesente par le Secretariat du Roi . 

2lRecueil, p. 747. 


King Leopold, should now declare In 1947 that morality was 

no longer an issue. It is probable that Spaak had not 

changed his mind but only his tactics. Between 1947 and 

1949 Spaak, as Prime Minister, was seeking a compromise. 

Although the constitutional issue had remained basic to the 

royal question, Leopold had appeared to be most sensitive 

to the accusations made against his moral behavior as King. 

Spaak probably reasoned that if the moral onus could be 

removed, the King might be willing to reach an agreement 

if he were convinced that by doing so he was not at the 

same time compromising his honor. 

The King desired equally to have the moral onus 

removed but for a different reason. In an answer to a 

group which had gone to Switzerland to urge him to reassume 

contact with the Government, Leopold wrote: 

To the wish that you have expressed to see 
me re-exercise my constitutional prerogatives, I 
can have only one answer. When I swore the oath 
to respect the Constitution and the laws of the 
Belgian people, I contracted vis-A-vis the Nation 
duties from which it does not fall to me to tin- 
burden myself. I remain ready, when it has been 
publicly declared that nothing has ever stained 
the honor of the Head of the Dynasty, to assume 
responsibility . ^2 

Ihid. . p. 764. Spaak made the public declara- 
tion in an address to the House of Representatives on 
December 10, 1947! 

As far as I am concerned I have always explained 
that the problem which presents itself to us does 
not concern the honor of the King. It concerns a 
political debate. ... I want you to understand 
that we must do everything in our power to prevent 


Leopold wanted to be rid of the moral stain for a reason 
Just the opposite to that of Spaak. The King reasoned 
that if the stigma of his immorality could be removed from 
the mind of the Belgian people, they would be in favor of 
his return. Spaak, on the other hand, believed that if 
the stigma could be removed, Leopold would be willing to 

The Belgian people cared little and understood 
even less about the basic constitutional issue; their 
primary concern seemed to be the morality or immorality 
of the King's behavior. Moreover, socioeconomic issues 
never seemed to have loomed large in the case against 
Leopold. From time to time, the Socialists did indicate 
that a return to reaction would accompany Leopold's return, 
but this reaction may be identified primarily with re- 
ligious and ethnic issues and not with economic issues* 
All investigation into Leopold's prewar position regarding 
li the working classes does not reveal any antilabor senti- 
.V ments, and paradoxically, Leopold's association with Henri 
De Man, however unfortunate it migho have been politically, 
• to an extent did indicate the King's sympathy with De Man's 

the debate from becoming a personal quarrel which 
involves the honor of the Head of the Dynasty. . . . 
There are a certain nvimber of Belgians who find that 
the King misinterpreted the articles of the Consti- 
tution. . . . There, Gentlemen, lies the debate. One 
can have a difference of opinion about such a point 
without doubting^the intention and good faith /of the 
Ki"£/ Rapport presente par le Secretariat du Roi . p. 117 , 


economic philosophy, one in which the rights of labor were 
predominant. Moreover, all during the royal question, the 
most important ally of the Socialists were the Liberals 
among whom could be found some of the wealthiest families 
in Belgium, anti-Catholic and anti-Leopold, but conservative 
economically. If, therefore, economic conservatives and 
economic radicals were fighting against the return of King 
Leopold, his economic policies must not have been a 
primary issue. This is well illustrated, for example, by 
the series of anti-Leopold articles published by the 
Socialist Victor Larock and by another series of similar 
articles attacking Leopold which appeared during May, I949, 
in the Socialist newspaper, Le Peuple .^^ In spite of the 
general condemnation of the King and all his activities, 
socioeconomic affairs were never mentioned. . . v^ 

Both parties to the dispute were thus maneuvering on 
January 16, 1948, at the first meeting since April, I946, 
between the Government and the Sovereign. The King asked 
Spaak: "What is the exact nature of the controversy? Is 
it one against me personally or is it, on the contrary, .v 
the monarchy itself which is threatened?"^^ Spaak ' 
answered that he did not consider the monarchy to be 


-'This series of articles was entitled De 

Wynendale au Re oosoir and appeared in Le Soir on sue- •- 
cessive days beginning April 23, 1949. 


Rapport prisent/ par le Secretariat du Roi . p. 121. 


threatened, because the mass of Belgians, including the 
Socialists, were not republicans. At the second meeting 
between the Government and the King, Spaak told Leopold 
that it would be wise for him /^^eopold/ to make some state- 
ment of his position to the people since elections would 
be inevitable the following year as the result of new •■ 
electoral laws. .,,■'>. 

In a letter to the Prince Regent on June 22, 1948, 
Leopold expressed his opinion regarding the royal question 
and revived the issue of a popular consultation. The King 
wrote that, contrary to the position taken by Spaak on 
December 10, 1947, and again at the meeting on January IS, 
194s, it was impossible to attack the person of the King 
and not attack, at the same time, the monarchy as an insti- 
tution. Furthermore, elections would not be the proper 
way to settle the royal affair because elections dealt 
with many political questions and were held within the 
framework of political party activity. This would be 
quite Improper, for the King was always above party: 

Today I have arrived at the conclusion that 
elections necessarily made within the framework of 
parties and dealing with the whole of political 
questions are not able to express the national will 
In a problem touching the royal prerogatives. 

25 . / 

On March 2?, 1948, the law was passed granting 
the vote to women. The electoral lists were to be revised 
beginning November 21, 194^, in preparation for the 
elections to be held in June, 1949. 



It is thus that I have rallied to the idea of a 
consultation of all citizens authorized by law. If 
that consultation does not give me an indisputable 
majority in favor of the restoration of my consti- 
tutional prerogatives I shall abdicate. On the other 
hand, if the majority is favorable to me, I expect 
Parliament, instructed by the national will to use 
the powers given to it by the law of July 19, 1945, 
and pu^ an end to the present constitutional crises. ^° 

': , , Leopold thus succeeded In destroying Spaak's 
strategy. Not only had the King forced the Government to 
state officially that the morality of the King's behavior 
was not an issue, but he had also told the nation that a 
political campaign involving the person of the King would 
threaten the monarchy itself. What was the reasoning 
behind Leopold's strategy? Nowhere does an explanation 
appear, but it seems that the strategy, largely psycho- 
logical, took advantage of a nation's historic and ... ty 
emotional attachment to the monarchy. By having the nation 
express itself in a consultation on the single issue of 
the royal question, the King would force out all other 
considerations. The people would be faced with either 
choosing or rejecting Leopold, yet Leopold himself had said 
that an attack on the King was an attack on the monarchy 
itself. True enough this was only the King's opinion, yet 


Recueil . p. 79Q. a consultation would be a 
nationwide advisory vote whose results the legislature 
could accept or reject. it was suggested as an alternative 
to a referendxim whose results are binding but forbidden 
under the Belgian constitution. As it was conceived, 
however, the consultation would have differed not at all 
from a referendum. 



it was the opinion of one v^om many of the people were 
conditioned by history and by emotion to respect. 

• On October 20, I948, Leopold »s suggestion for a 
consultation was rejected by the Senate. As an alterna- 
tive means of deciding the royal question, the Liberals • 
suggested that a commission be appointed to study and 
decide when it would be opportune for the King to resume 
hie royal functions, h provision was made that the King 
send two representatives to sit with the commission. ' i 
Leopold refused to consider this proposition, 

^ The King cannot rally to a project thus conceived. 

?^u ^° ^P^® ^° ^^^® P*^^ ^^ ^ commission charged 
with saying when it would be opporttme for him to 
, resume his prerogatives. He could not take into 
account the highly subjective advice of such a 

X. ^P^^^ advice could not pretend to represent that 
of the majority of the Belgians who would be the 
only ones who could lead the King to abdicate, if 
that opinion were unfavorable. ^7 

There the matter rested. The royal question continued to 
hang fire until the dissolution of Parliament on May IQ. ' 
1949, prior to the elections in June. 

fc' In March, 1949, after the Government had made 
the decision to dissolve Parliament, contact was resumed 
between Leopold and the Government, and the Prince Regent 
also took part in the discussions. Prime Minister Spaak 
advised Leopold that there were only two possible po- 
sitions for him to take before the elections, i.e., '^**^'t-.: 


Ibid . . p. $37 



■ - . 'y 
either to keep out of the campaign or to throw himself into 
it and to define his position in a manifesto to his sub- 
jects. Spaak suggested the first of these. At the same 
time Spaak also changed his approach toward Leopold. His 
original strategy having failed, i.e., to play down the 
moral issue In order that Leopold might find abdication 
honorable, Spaak allowed the moral issue to be re- 
emphasized. During the months between the Senate* s re- >- > 
jection of a popular consultation in October, 1948, and 
the elections in June, 1949, the King was the subject of 
violent attack by the anti-Leopold press in Belgium. •; 
Leopold complained officially to the Government saying 
that he remained sovereign even though in exile and waa . • 
protected by Article 63 of the Constitution against r 
personal attack. Spaak answered the complaint by recalling 
his address to Parliament on March 25, 1947, in which he 
had said that he would attempt to find some solution to 
the statement. He added; 

The Government feels that it has done all in its 
power to achieve that goal. , . . Those were our 
sentiments at that time. They have not changed. We 
regret that these rules have been violated. Violent 
polemics, wherever they arise, can only further 
poison the problems which reason and the national 
interest require to be resolved with dignity. 

Nevertheless, in these matters the Government can 
only give counsel. It has reiterated this counsel to 
everyone in a most pressing manner. V/e wish that 
throughout the present electoral campaign those who 
wish to explain themselves on the royal question do ^ 
so with the moderation which the situation demands. . . . 

Ibid . . p. 848. 



In short, Spaak would do nothing to stop the diatribes, 

and Leopold decided not to take an active part in the 

elections. . . ■ • • , i;..., 

■..'■; ?<.'-•: The elections, whose predominant issue was the 

solution of the royal question, were held on June 26, 

1949, and women voted for the first time. The Minister 

of the Interior announced that the total electorate would 

number 2,705,1^2 men and 2,930,270 women, the latter being 

in the majority in all provinces except Limbourg. The 

results of the election appear in the following table: 

v>;t'•/•:^■^^' ■•'::■■,;•■■-'...,. TABLE I ,.:''..•■• i;- [ 

The Distribution of Seats after the Elections of June, 1949 
(Figures in parenthesis are the distribution of seats 

after the elections of June 192^.6) 

Party House Senate 

Catholic Social Party (P.S.C.) 105 (92) 92 (63) 

Socialist Party (P.S.B.) 66 (69) 53 (55) 

Liberal Party • (P.L.B.) 29 (17) ' Zk (12) 

Communist Party (P.C.B.) 12 (23) 6 (17) 

Comparing the elections of 1949 with those of I946, the 
Catholics gained 22 seats, 13 in the House and nine in the 
Senate; the Socialists lost five seats, three in the House 
and two in the Senate; the Communists lost 22 seats, 11 
each in the House and the Senate. The Liberals gained 24 
seats, 12 each in the House and Senate. The gains of the 
Liberal party had little connection with the royal question, 
however, but were the result primarily of a highly publicized 




electoral campaign championing a great reduction in the 
income tax. As a result of the election, the Catholic 
Right had I96 seats and the Left bloc had I90 seats} the 
Catholics won an absolute majority in the Senate but not 
in the House of Representatives. The election, while 
reinforcing the position of the partisans of the King, re- 
vealed that the Belgians remained divided on the issue. .. 
The majority in Catholic Flanders in effect voted for the 
King while the majority in Socialist Wallonia voted 
against him. Furthermore, the increased strength of the 
Catholic party in the House, IO5 seats as compared to 92 
in 1946, cannot be described as a gain in the popular 
vote, for the Catholics increased their share of the popu- 
lar vote by only one per cent, 43 per cent instead of 42 
per cent in 1946.^^ The gain of I3 seats was due to .-.-•, 
changes in the electoral law and the redistrictlng of /..'.; 
House constituencies. 

The stalemate would have continued had the Liberal 
party not changed its position. From June until August, 
1949, the three major parties attempted to form a govern- 
ment, but no agreement could be reached. On August 3, - 
1949, the Liberals issued a manifesto in which they altered 
their heretofore unequivocal position for the effacement 


Les Ele ctions Legislatines du 4 Juin 1950 
( Institut De Solvay. BrxixellesS Editions de la Libralrle 
Encyclopedique , 1953 ) . 


of King Leopold and supported the Catholic proposal for a 
national consultation. The Liberals knevr that this 
compromise was fraught with danger: "What will become of 
Belgian unity on the day when the Walloons say that the 
Flemings imposed upon them a King they did not want, or ' 
the day when the Flemings say that the Walloons prevented 
the return of a King whom they wanted7"30 Nevertheless 
they considered this to be less risky than the indefinite 
prolongation of national crisis. They re-emphasized that 
first preference for the effacement of King Leopold and for 
the accession of Prince Baudouin as the fifth king,- of the 
Belgians, but they stated that if Leopold refused to agree 
to this, a consultation was the lesser of two evils. The 
party »s decision to allow a consultation was based on its 
analysis of the results of the June elections which showed 
that Liberal opinion was no longer unanimous. Whereas 
the Liberals in Wallonia and Brussels remained over- 
whelmingly opposed to King Leopold, Liberal opinion in -• 
Flanders had become more fluid. The party added, however, 
that if its proposal were to be accepted the results of 
the consultation would have to be more than a simple 

It is necessary that in each region of the country 
at least half the people pronounce in his /the Kingtg/" 


I old . . p. 657. 



favor; it is necessary, too, that he receive /the 
vote of/ at least two-thirds of the whole 
electorate. 31 

The Liberals suggested that Leopold make his opinion known 
regarding their proposal. . . .: 

' The King answered in a message dated August 5 • e- 
that he would have to be guided by the Constitution: , . ■ 

I have been asked if I would consent to fix a 
specific percentage which I would consider necessary 
in order to reassume the exercise of my prerogatives. 
My answer to that question can only be dictated by 
the Constitution. ... It has been suggested, by 
evoking the two-third's rule which is demanded for 
every constitutional change, that the same per- 
centage be applied to the consultation. That 
proposal is not justified since the Constitution 
and the law provide that Parliament by a simple 
majority name the Regent, state the end of the 
"impossibility to reign," and determine when the 
throne is vacant. ,?. 

In order to be constitutional the consultation 
can only be considered as an opinion rendered by the ^ 
electorate to Parliament and to the King. 

By the law of July 19, I945, Parliament reserved 
for itself the power to decide the end of the 
"impossibility to reign." It therefore falls to 
Parliament, clarified by the national consultation, 
to pronounce the end of the impossibility to reign, 
in full liberty and under its own responsibility. 

It would be inadmissible. . . for the King thus 
to restrain the powers of Parliament .32 

These words can only be called smug, the words of 
a blindly righteous man to whom a compromise was offered 
but who rejected it as beneath his dignity, taking refuge 
behind constitutional niceties. Leopold could not have 
failed to realize that a consultation no matter how 

^^Ibid. , p. 861. 


camouflaged was unconstitutional. He had suggested a con- 
sultation several times before, and the pro-Leopold party- 
had been the first to place the proposal before Parlia- 
ment in 1945 Then and subsequently it was rejected as 
unconstitutional. In 1949 it was no less unconstitutional, 
but the Liberals, eager to put an end to the dangerous 
schism that had existed in Belgium for almost ten years, 
were willing to make concessions. Leopold did not deny 
the constitutionality of a consultation because he 
reckoned that such a consultation could be favorable to 
him. He denied the constitutionality of a fixed per- 
centage larger than a simple majority because these results 
could be unfavorable to him. Leopold held out for a 
consultation whose results would be determined by a simple 
majority, yet even these results he would not consider 
absolutely binding: 

I do not intend to be tied to specific figures. 
When I declared in my letter of June 22, 1948, that I 
would abdicate "if this consultation does not result 
in an indisputable majority in favor of the restoration 
of my constitutional prerogatives" I wanted to make 
known that in considering the results of an eventual 
consultation, my only care would be to conform to 
what appeared to me . without any possible doubt, to 
be the will of the nation, taking into account not 
only the number of votes cast but also the circum- 
stances which accompanied the consultation and the 
inferences drawn from these circumstances. ^3 

On August 11, 1949, the Catholics and the Liberals 


Ibid . . p. 862. 




formed a coalition cabinet under the preiaiership of the 
Catholic Gaston Eyskens. They agreed to hold a con- 
sultation, but no details were announced. The Socialists 
expressed their firm opposition thus: 

Does the Parliament need further clarification by 
means of such a consultation? The P.S.B. does not 
think so. The balloting of June 26 was sufficiently 
significant. . . following which the P.S.C., having 
placed at the head of its program, as in 1946, a 
solution identical to that set out in the King»s 
message, received only 2,187,310 votes whereas 
2,604,24.21 male and female electors decided in favor 
of the parties opposed to that solution, 34 

Furthermore, the Socialists declared that if, in spite of 

their opposition, a national consultation were held, they 

would consider a simple majority insufficient and a 

personal interpretation of the results by the King as 

totally inadmissible: 

It would be inexcusable to expose the country to 
the dangers of a popular consultation if it did not 
bring about a definite solution to the royal question. 
A discussion would inevitably spring out of the 
problem of interpreting the results if no accord were 
reached beforehand regarding the subject.^^ 

The Consultation 

The Eyskens Government spent the fall months of 

1949 preparing for the consultation. A legislative 

commission was appointed by the Government to study the 

constitutionality of the consultation. The Commission's 

^^ Ibid .. pp. 862-863. 
^^Ibid. , p. 862*. 


report appeared on December 22, 1949, and supported the 
consultation. The report included a minority note written 
by Victor Larock, the author of "A ^uand la Lumiere" and 
a fellow Socialist from Flanders, Henri Fayat, disagreeing 
with the majority opinion and declaring the consultation 
to be unconstitutional. 

The report and the minority note were interesting 
but not so much because of their findings and opinions-- 
these were predictable considering the political compo- 
sition of the commission. It was the reasoning behind 
each opinion which was fascinating. The majority opinion, 
basically Catholic, claimed that the consultation would 
be an advisory vote and not a referendum and it pointed 
out that the Constitution was silent on advisory con- 
sultations. The majority reasoned that the legislature 
had residuary powers to handle those things not specifically 
forbidden by the Constitution. Had not the legislature 
interpreted the Constitution and used its residuary power 
when it passed the law of July I9, I92f5, regarding the 
Regency? The Constitution was silent regarding the manner 
in which the Regency should be brought to an end, and the 
legislature was legitimately entitled to interpret thia 

The Houses dispose of the residue of sovereignty. 
Beyond their legislative or political function they 
exercise the sovereign function in the place of the 
nation from which all power is derived. The funda- 
mental principle of our constitutional law flows. 

from the existence in Belgium of a parliamentary 
constitutional regime as well as from Articles 25 
and 78 of the Constitution. 3© 

The minority note, on the other hand, interpreted 
the consultation in the opposite light. '-■'.• 

Such procedure /the consultation/ was not pro- 
vided for by any disposition of the Belgian consti- 
tution and one would take great liberty with regard 
to the latter to pretend that, on such an important 
point which touches so intimately the functioning of 
our representative regime, omission was the equivalent 
of permission. ... To justify. . . the consti- 
tutionality of the project by evoking the residuaiw; 
sovereignty of the legislative power, to support /the 
contention/ that the Houses are able to adopt such a 
project for the simple reason that nothing in the 
Constitution explicitly forbids them to do so is, in 
reality, to pretend that the Houses can reverse 
constitutional order indirectly when they are not 
able to do so directly. 37 

Whether or not the two major parties realized it, 
they were reversing their basic position on the royal 
question. Heretofore, the Catholics, by defending King 
Leopold and his concepts of the monarchy, had been sup- 
porting a conservative, legalistic interpretation of the 
Constitution, claiming that the Constitution was to be 
interpreted and enforced strictly to th© letter as it ap- 
peared in the document of 1330 and in its subsequent 
amendments. The Socialists, on the other hand, by opposing 
King Leopold and his concepts of the monarchy, had been 

Rapport fait au nom de la Gomntlssion speclale sur 
la Consultation populaire au sujet de la question royale , 
(Chambre des RepreTsentants, 22 deTcembre 1949; Projet de loi 
Inatituant une Consultation populaire au sujet de la quest- 
ion iroyale), p. 13» 

^'^ Ibid., pp. 3^-40. 


supporting, under the impact of universal suffrage and 
political parties, a broadened interpretation of the 
Constitution and its amendments. According to them power 
had come to rest in a strong legislature which could 
interpret the Constitution in the light of evolving customs, 
whether or not such customs had been formally added to the 
basic law. The law of July I9, I945, gave Parliament the 
authority to determine when the regency should come to an 
end. At that time, the Socialists and their allies argued 
that because the Constitution was silent on the matter. 
Parliament could legislate and thereby fill in the gap 
left in the Constitution. In I945 the Catholics had re- 
jected this line of reasoning, claiming that Parliament ' 
could not act merely because the Constitution was silent. 
Nov/ in 1950 the reasoning v/ae reversed. Catholics 
championed a broadened interpretation of the powers of ' ^ 
Parliament under the Constitution, while the Socialists 
clung to a narrow legalistic conception. 

On March 12, I95O, approximately 5,500,000 Belgians 
(the total number voting in the elections of June, 1949, 
was 5,635,452) went to the polls to answer this rather 
ambiguous question: "Etes-vous d»avis que le Roi Leopold 
III reprenne 1» exercise de ses pouvoirs constitutionnels?"38 

^ The question posed to the electorate was am- 
biguous for the very reasons that Victor Larock had pointed 
out in his minority note: "An affirmative response is 
perfectly clear. A negative response is obscure. ♦No* 


It was agreed that the ballots would be counted on a v " 
regional basis, i.e., Wallonia, Flanders and Brussels, 
but no percentage was officially decided upon. On 
October 18, 1949, a- joint communique had been issued by 
Leopold and Eyskens in which Leopold declared that if the 
percentage in his favor was less than 55 per cent he would 

not reassume the exercise of his prerogatives. He did not 


say, however, that he would abdicate. - 

Balloting was secret and compulsory, but each 
elector had the option to cast a blank or deliberately in- 
validated ballot; 2,933,392 electors (or 57.68 per cent of 
the valid ballots) voted »'yes," while 2,151,881 (or 42.32 

per cent of the valid ballots) voted "no." Approximately 

ten per cent of the total ballots cast were invalid . 

Table 2 gives the results of the consultation in actual 
ballots cast and in percentage by province. Table 3 com- 
pares by province the vote on the consultation with the 
ballots cast in 1949 by the Catholic party and by the 
Liberal party, the two parties supporting the consultation. 

could signify either abdication or the postponement of the 
question. . . . Many in good faith believe that they have 
to choose between a return to the throne and the in- 
definite suspension of power." ( Rapport faij ; ^ au nom de la 
commission , pp. 50-51.) 

Many, too, were of the opinion that a vote against 
the King was a vote for a republic. The Catholics did 
little to quash this erroneus belief. 

-^^ Recueil . p. 872. 




Consultation of March, 1950, Results by Province in 
Actual Number of Ballots Cast and in Percentage. 


Ballots Cast 





East Flanders 

West Flanders 


, - ' ■ 








'■■'/■■. ; ■. 

241,011 '. 

529,769 :: 

207,737 ■ 










Yes 244,676 



























Brabant (Brussels 

area including Brusj 


\u Yes 







Correct figures not available 


.-, nV 


"Yes" Vote in Consultation of March, 1950, P.S.C. Vote in 
1949, Liberal Vote in 1949# Combined P.S.C. and Liberal 
Vote in 1949» by Provinces, in Percentages. 










, ' ■ 1 . 



and P.S.C. 




Limb our g 



83 /.V 

B3 ; 

West Flanders 




75 : 

East Flanders 









68 , 





65 . 





53 ' 













. . ..J4. .. ..■ 



The country ag a whole voted for Leopold by 57.68 
per cent, but in Flanders the pro-Leopold vote was 72 per 
cent. All the Flemish provinces voted for his return. 
Wallonia voted against Leopold by 58 per cent, and Brussels 
voted against him by 52 per cent. Yet, in Wallonia, only 
two provinces voted against him by more than 50 per cent, 
Li^ge by 59 per cent and Hainaut by 64 per cent. Both 
these provinces were areas of heavy industry and mining 
and were the largest centers of Socialist strength in 
Belgium. In Flanders the province with the lowest per- 
centage favorable to the King (68 per cent) was Antwerp, 
the port of whose major city, Antwerp, was a stronghold of 
the Federation of Socialist and Communist trade unions 
(F.G.T.B.). The province with the highest percentage 

,■;■•:; ,237 

favorable to the King (63 per cent) was Llmbourg In 
Flanders, predominantly agricultural and considered to be 
the most conservative and Catholic in the nation. Brabant 
offered the most interesting phenomenon. This is the 
province in which Brussels is located and is the only- 
province bisected by the language frontier, !.«., thii .^^ . 
Invisible line which separates Flanders from Wallonia. In 
other words, Brabant Is approximately half French-speaking 
and half Flemish-speaking, It split 5O-5O on the consul- 
tation while the city of Brussels voted against the King by 
52 per cent. 

Comparing the "yes" vote In 1950 with the election 
results in 1949, one observes that in Flanders the per- 
centage favorable to the King in 1950 was larger than the 
combined vote for the Catholic and the Liberal parties in 
1949, while in Wallonia the percentage was smaller. In 
Flanders, the consultation verified what the 1949 election 
had Indicated, the strong pro-Leopold sentiment among 
Flemish Liberals. The increase in the consultation over 
the combined Catholic-Liberal vote in 1949 can be attri- 
buted in part to votes from the minor Flemish parties which 
had drawn ballots away from the Catholic party in 1949 
but which remained pro-Leopold on the royal question, and 
in part toother defection from the Left. According to a 
study made by the Solvay Institute of the University of 
Brussels, in the country as a whole, about 15 per cent 

of the members of parties on the Laft voted against their 
■ party's position on the royal question. Thie was tru© 
particularly of the Liberal party, and if the reader com- 
pares Wallonia with Flanders, this was particularly true 
in Flanders. In Wallonia and in Brussels the consultation, 
seemed to Indicate that party regulars in both the Catholic 
party and the Liberal party abandoned their party to show 
their opposition to Leopold. - . 

The Liberals, who had been responsible for the 
compromise which had allowed the consultation now refused 

•{ to vote with the Catholics to implement the law of July ig, 

1945 • They considered the percentage favorable to Leopold 

to be too small to satisfy their requirements.^*^ Although 

the Liberal party would not vote for Leopold's return, it 

agreed to continue negotiations with him. The Catholics 

and the Socialists, on the other hand, remained adamant, 

the Catholics for an unconditional resumption of power, 

the Socialists for abdication. Parliament was once again 

at an impasse. 


-. On March 14, 1950, Prime Minister Eyskens left 
Brussels for Geneva to receive Leopold's decision. The 
King refused to act end threw the initiative back to ' 
Parliament : k. 

^°See this chapter, p. 228. 

r--^f ' 


The national will h^s been cleerlj'' expressed. 
Under the circumstances, I can only remain at the 
disposition of the nation. True enough, the fact 
that the royal question has become an element in the 
platforms of political parties is not without 
difficulty. But these exclusively political diffi- 
culties are not my responsibility. I personally 
only assiime the obligations which are derived from 
ray dynastic role. ;- . 

It is up to Parliament to take political 
responsibility. In virtue of the power conferred 
upon it by law of July 19, 1945, the organs of 
national sovereignty must without further dealy 
solve the present crisis. 41 

Leopold's maneuverings were beginning to darken 

the mood of the nation} above all, the Flemish-Walloon 

animosity was growing ominous. On March 19 the National 

Walloon Congress (a Walloon separatist organization) met 

at Namur: 

The permanent committee of the National Walloon 
Congress states thpt the national consultation has , ' 
underlined the division of Belgium into two totally 
opposed groups; it states that the great majority 
of Walloons and citizens of Brussels have pronounced 
clearly against the return of Leopold III; it con- 
siders that the resumption by him of his royal 
prerogatives would seriously disturb the duty of 
Walloon loyalty to the Belgian state; it calls all 
organizations hostile to the return of the King to 
unite in common battle; it salutes with great 
emotion the thousands of workers who have been engaged 
in the battle until now; it affirms its irrevocable 
will to bring about by all the means in its power 
the triximph of the cause of Wallonia, part of the 
cause of democracy and liberty; it decides to sit 
permanently and to keep ready for any eventuality.^^ 


La Libre Belgiaue . March 17, 1950, p. 1. 

Taeda, "De la Consultation populaire au Message 
royal," Le Flambeau . XXXIII, No. II (April, 1950) p. I69. 



On the same day, another separatist group. Free Wallonia, 

spoke of breaking away from Belgiiim if the King should 


The general council of Free Wallonia, . , proclaims 
that the restoration of Leopold III would have as its 

consequences the disaffection of the Vi/alloons with 
regard to the Belgian state and /proclaim^/ that the 
V/alloon movement could be led ;o revise its doctrines 
and demand the liberation of Wallonia in conformity 
with the charter of the United Nations. ^^ 

The religious issue, too, became a serious part of 

the growing conflict: _ 

Moreover the maneuverings after the consultation 
have crudely displayed the desire of the Flemish 
clergy to establish their hegemony over the whole 
of Belgium. They plan, under the cover of a King who 
' has become instrument, the planting on our soil 
of a regime ^ike that of/ Salazar. . .^^ 

The clergy, at the instigation of its chief 
/Cardinal Archbishop Van Roey at Malineg/ has waged 
an open campaiy,n in favor of the return of the King. 
Cardinal Van Roey has gone so far as to invoke in 
his /the King'g/ behalf the fourth commandment 
(Honor thy Father and thy Mother), and Monseigneur 
de Tournai publicly censured Chanoine Demine who had 
the temerity to think. . . that the royal question 
was a free question. ^^ 

On March I9, 1950, Eyskens and his coalition 

Catholic-Liberal cabinet resigned, unable to solve the 

dilemma. For the next two weeks first Eyskens, a Catholic, 

and then Albert Deveze, a Liberal, tried in vain to form 


^^ Ibid . . p. 179. 

^^ Ibid .. p. 166. 


a new government. On March I9 the Socialists, at an extra- 
ordinary national congress declared by the unariimous vote 
of 1,162 delegates: 

The P.S.B. remains disposed to try any peaceful 
national solution other than the return of Leopold III 
to the throne. . . . The action committee will continue 
and will extend its activity by all the means in its 
power until Leopold III, finally understanding that 
the interest of the country passes beyond his 
personal interest/, makes room for the fifth King of 
the Belgians. ^^ 

On March 22, Paul-Henri Spaak appealed to the King to 

consider the greater good of his country and to abdicate 

in favor of his son. Spaak said that the Sovereign should 

consider that his honor had been vindicated by the results 

of the consultation and should step down: 

Sire, the discussion which swirls around your 
person is fundamental and essential: it is the very 
functioning of our institutions; above all, it is 
the approval or condemnation of that which we thought 
we should have done during the war, at the hour of 
battle, for our independence and for our liberty. 
It is the whole concept of the Fatherland, of its 
interest and its duty. When all that is at stake, 
the minority will not give way; it will continue 
the battle. . . . Sire, Belgium, its unity and 
prosperity are in danger. Everything that the 
majority wants is not necessarily good; everything 
that is legal is not necessarily to be recommended. 

The great statesmen are those who first prevent 
certain problems from arising, and then who know how 
not to abuse victory.^' 

Spaak »s appeal went unheeded. As a result, both Eyskens 

and Deveze failed to form a government, and on April 6 

^^ Ibid .. p. I6d. 

^"^ Le Peuple . March 22, 1950, p. 1. 

■•-■■■ .V. ' '.,. V, ; >; ;i_;, 


Prince Charles charged the Catholic Paul Van Zeeland 
with the task. The Liberals announced that they were still 
willing to compromise and would support Leopold's return 
but not unconditionally. The Catholics stood their ground, 
and Van Zeeland rejected the Liberal compromise. At this 
point the Liberals withdrew all support from Van Zeeland 
and rejoined the Left in its opposition to King Leopold. 
It wa© once again clearly the Catholic Right against the 
combined Liberal, Socialist, and Communist Left. 

On April 13 Van Zeeland, still attempting to form 
a cabinet, flew to Geneva to consult with the King. On 
April 17 Leopold issued a statement which, for a moment, 
offered a measure of hope. For the first time he expressed 
the willingness to compromise. He would temporarily 
delegate power to his son, retaining for himself, however, 
the right to declare when that delegation had come to an 
end. In Belgiixm the statement was considered ambiguous. 
The Left saw the delegation as an indirect means whereby 
Leopold could reascend the throne. At a round table 
discussion of the King's proposal, the three major parties 
again reached a stalemate over attempts to agree on 
answers to the following questions: (1) should the decla- 
ration of the end of the Regency and the delegation of 
power to Prince Baudouin take place simultaneously (in 
other words, should Leopold be allowed to reassvune his 
powers even for a limited time)? (2) how long would 


Leopold remain in Belgium (in other words, would Leopold 
appear for the formal delegation of authority to his son 
and then resiime his exile)? (3) under what conditions 
would the King consider that it was time to reclaim for 
himself the powers of Head of State? ■. . 

Leopold refused to help in resolving the stalemate. 
On April 24 he expressed pique at the parties for sus- 
pecting his intentions: ■ ■ . . . 

In taking the initiative to attempt to put an end 
to the present crisis. . . you know full well that I 
was guided only by the desire to assure a Jixst 
equilibrium between the rights of the majority and 
those of the minority and to make possible a reconcili- 
: , ation between Belgians. 

I will not hesitate to say that I am astonished. . • 
to witness the discussion that has come up regarding 
•*' • my presence in the country. . . . Guided by the 
proposals which had been submitted to me I made a 
suggestion; let it be accepted in the spirit in which 
I presented it. . . . There is no need whatsoever for 
guarantees which can add nothing to the value of my 
word.^° . ,, . 

It appeared that the immovalbe object had met the irre- 
sistible force. As a result, on April 30, 1950, the 
Prince Regent dissolved Parliament and called for elections 
to be held on June 4* 
The Elections of June 4. 1Q50 and the End of the Leopold 

As a result of the elections the Catholics received 
an absolute majority of seats in Parliament elthough they 

La Libre Belsiaue . April 26, 1950, p. 1. 



did not receive an absolute majority of votes In the 
country, as shown in Tables k and S* The increase in 
Catholic strength in the elections of June, 1950, as com- 
pared to the elections of Jvine, 1949, was due in part to 
the fact that the P.S.C. had been able to prevent the 
formation of small, right-wing Flemish parties and In part 
to pro-Leopold members of parties of the Left, primarily 
the Liberals, who had to vote P.S.C. if they wanted to 
support the King. The Liberals lost in part because they 
were not able to carry out their fiscal program while 
they were in the government from August, 1949, until . ':. 
March, 1950, and in part because of their vacillating 
position on the royal question. Many Liberals who wanted 
to be sure that opposition to Leopold would not slacken 
voted for the Socialist party even though by June, 1950, 
the Liberal party was once again firmly in opposition to 
the King. The success of the Socialist party was due 
primarily to the reasons given above but also to the 
appeal that it made for middle-class votes, a new phe- 
nomenon in Socialist campaigning. 

The distribution of party strength in the various 
provinces, shown in Table 6, indicates that the parties 
maintained their traditional strongholds. Limbourg again 
voted overwhelmingly for the Catholic party, but in 
Antwerp, industrial and dock workers reduced the Catholic 
strength in Flanders. Brussels again divided almost 



--^■■■- ■■ ■ TABLE 4 ; ■ ■\'.''r.^ 

Actual Vote and Percentage of Total Vote Cast for the House 
of Representatives by Each of the Parties in the Elections 
of June, 1950, Compared to the Figures for the 
Election of June, 1949. 



Votes Percentage 







. 1949 
Votes Percentage 









^■^7^ •: 

;,; TABLE 5 '.■'."■•'• '-^ • ■.■■•■: 

Distribution of Seats in the House of Representatives after 
the Elections of June, 1950, Compared to the Distribution 
after the Elections of June, 1949. 




Gain or Loss 

: : 

, P.S.C. 


,;. P.S.B, 

S;v 77 

> -■^- - 

- .. P.L.B. 












Percentage of Total Votes Secured by the Various Parties in 
Each Province in the Election of Jime, 1950. 







Antwerp 51 

East Flanders 50 

West Flanders 62 

Limbourg 78 



































♦Joint Liberal-Socialist ticket. 

evenly between Socialists and Catholics with the Liberals 
holding the balance. In Wallonia, the Socialists main- 
tained their strength as the Catholics had in Flanders, but 
Luxembourg, the southernmost province of Wallonia, continued 
to give a strong majority to the Catholic party; for 
Luxembourg not only is essentially rural, but also is the 
province closest to the Grand Duchy whose ruling family 
has strong ties with the Belgian Saxe-Coburg family. 

On June 8, 1950, a Catholic cabinet was formed 
under the preioiership of Jean Duvieusart. That same day. 



the Socialists in the House of Representatives threatened 
the Catholics: 

The Soci£list group in the House states that the 
P.S.C. owes to the Flemish vote (the champions of 
■> incivisme ) the gain of three seats which it has 

obtained in the House. It denoiinces before the co\intry 
the extremely grave character of the decision an- 
nounced today according to which the first action of 
the ^rovernment will be to call a joint session of the 
two Houses in order to bring the Regency to an eno and 
to recall Leopold III to the throne. 

The Socialist group believes that by acting in 
this manner the P.S.C, which did not receive 50 per 
cent of the votes in the country as a whole, is 
deliberately rejecting the solution which alone can 
lead to national agreement; that it /_the P.S.Cjj/ 
abuses intolerably a majority of four seats; that it 
scorns the clear significance of the only election 
which the Constitution recognizes, i.e., that of 
universal suffrage, which offers startling proof that 
Leopold III is only the King of an essentially 
regional and partisan majority; and that the P.S.C. 
is placing the personal causes of the King above 
the evident and immediate interests of the working 
class and of the middle classes which have so long .. 
been neglected. . . . . 

The Socialist group addresses a solemn warning to 
the P.S.C. that it will never accept that our form of 
government be placed before a fait accompli by a 
majority acquired at the price of justice and of a 
shameful alliance. 

Knowing that our democratic institutions as well 
as our civil and social peace are in peril, the 
Socialist group will wage merciless war in Parlia- 
ment, and if Leopold III is called back because of ' •-. 
the wishes of his partisans, the Group and the Party ^^ 
will not cease to oppose both the King and his party. 

On June 27 Duvieusart announced that Leopold would 

soon return. That same day, the F.G.T.B. declared that • 

if Leopold returned, the members of the federation would 

no longer recognize him as King. On July 6, 1950, the 


Le Peuple . June 9, 1950, p. 1. 


The Catholic government called the Houses into joint 
session for the purpose of implementing the law of July 19, 
1945- The session began amidst violent opposition within 
Parliament itself, and within ^/allonia, in Brussels and in 
the larger cities of Flanders. The debate which raged for 
the following two weeks added nothing that was not already- 
known about the royal question. It is enough to say that 
the debate was a violent resume of ten years of conflict. 
Considering the composition of the Houses, the vote at its 
conclusion on July 20 was inevitable. 

By July, 1950, however, what was happening in 
parliament was no longer important. Political action had 
failed, and the anti-Leopold forces were beginning to take 
direct measures of reprisal. On July 6, the first demon- 
strations began against the return of Leopold. In 
Charleroi workers struck for half an hour; in Liege, forty 
mines went on strike and workers* demonstrations took place 
in Le Centre. On July 9» 30,000 workers came to Brussels 
to pay homage to the Prince Regent and hear Paul -Henri 
Spaak praise the Regent while everyone knew he was con- 
demning the King: 

They thank you for never having despaired of the 
fate of the Fatherland, even during the blackest days 
of the war; for having shown your complete fidelity 
to our Allies, aiding them by having taken part in 
the Belgian resistance; for having carefully avoided 
all contact with the occupant and for having preferred 
the dangers of going into hiding to deportation. 

They thank you for having accepted, on the morrow 
of the liberation, the difficult task of Regent, for 



having exercised your functions in a scrupulously 
constitutional manner, for having done everything to 

maintsin the prestige of th . ountry, for having 
been the symbol of the unity of your compatriotes.^^ 

That the speech was illogical, that it was impossible to 
compare the wartime behavior of a captive sovereign to 
that of his brother who held no position of authority 
until September, 1944, was no longer important either to 
the speaker or to the audience. There was only one ob- 
jective, to prevent the return of Leopold, and every 
device, legal or illegal, would be used to accomplish it. 

On July 10 there were demonstrations in Antwerp 
against the King, and between July 10 and 12 the entir© 
"black country," the coal mining area centering on 
Charleroi, was paralyzed by strike. On July 12, 20,000 
workers marched through Charleroi carrying banners with 
such inscriptions as: "Leopold III, symbol of xmity of 
the incivigue Catholic Party"; "Leopold III, the repudiated 
King without respect either at home or abroad"; "We defy 
Leopold III to put foot in Charleroi." On that same day 
there were strikes in Ghent, Namur, Mons, Le Centre, and 
in the Borinage. On July 14, the anniversary of the fall of 
the Bastille, 10,000 demonstrators poured into La Louviere 
screaming "Leopold to the gallows"; "Abdication"; "Down 
with Leopold!"; "Hang him, hang himi" The demonstrators 

^ °Ibid .. July 10, 1950, p. 1. 


listened to Max Buset, the President of the Socialist 

We find ourselves now In the Chambers /of Parlia- 
ment/ sitting In joint session with the "yes-men" of 
Mallnes. ^Les "Ja-ja de llallnes." "Ja" Is Flemish 
for yes; Mallnes Is the seat of the Cardinal Arch- 
blshojg/ There v/lll be no .joyeuse entrl'e for their 
Beloved. I defy the government to announce the day 
and the hour of the .joyeuse entree . There will be 
no speech from the throne. Leopold will not speak. 
_ V/hen he shall ask for consultations not one Socialist 
f will respond to his appeal. The Socialist ministers 
,^ of state will resign. You will see! We will give 
back our decorations with an expression of our 
contempt. The P.S.B. solemnly declares that it 
repudiates the King} that it no longer recognizes • ■ 
him as King of the Belgians. The P.S.B. declares 
solemnly that it will carry the fight until abdi- 
cation! 51 

. That same day, July 1J+, there were strikes and demon- 
strations by the F.G.T.B. at Vervlers. "Sire, your son is 
our King"; "Our Queen Astrld did not deserve this"; "Would 
you accept Llliane Baels as Queen?"; "Shh, don»t speak of 
the resistance! Leopold is listening I" read some of the 
banners carried by the demonstrators. The president of 
the Regional Committees of Communal Action of the F.G.T.B. 
told the manifestorsS 

He is the King of one party, the P.S.C. which 
because of its majority wishes to reinstall a Saxe- 
Coburg-Gotha despite the working class which will not 
stop the fight until the King of the Germans has 
abdicated. During two wars, our soldiers fought for 
liberty against foreign tyranny. They do not want 
the workers to accept today a dictatorship which 
would be installed on the throne along with 

Leopold III. 52 

^-"■Ibid. , July 15, 1950, p. 1, 

_ , " 251 

fhe Catholics remained deaf to the opposition, 
and on July 20 the united chambers voted to end th« 
Regency. A total of 197 Catholics and one Liberal voted 
for the King J the Socialists, the Communists, and the re- 
maining Liberals left the chamber and refused to vote. On 
July 22, King Leopold, Prince Baudouin, and Prince Albert 
returned to Belgium. They arrived early in the morning and 
were driven immediately to Laeken." During the afternoon 
the King addressed his subjects by radio and asked them 
to unite and forget, but half the population was willing 
to do neither. The next day there were mass meetings at 
Liege and Brussels. Paul-Henri Spaak told the crowd '• 
gathered at Place des Martyrs in the capital: 

We are in a relatively difficult situation. 
"Relatively" because our adversaries are completely 
wrong if they imagine that they have won this battle 
which has lasted since May 25, 1940. The King re- 
fused to follow the advice of his ministers in order 
to be able to continue that foreign policy which he 
had premeditated, that monstrous policy which placed 
on the same footing the Germany which had attacked 
us and the Allies to whom we called for help. 

This fight has gone on for ten years. This is 
not the final phase. We Socialists have decided to , 
continue the combat. Perhaps we will lose this or 
that battle, but because we i?epresent political 
honor and the memory of resistance, and because our -i. 
cause is beautiful and just, we will eventually winl^^ 

On July 26 the Regional Committees of the F.G.T.B. met at 

Charleroi to hear Arthur Gallly tell the delegates: 

Even today Belgians speak of the "cowardly" return 
in the early morning hours when few Belgians would be on 
the streets. 


Le Peuple . July 25, 1950, p. 1. 


The object of our battle Is the abdication of 
Leopold III. The King is responsible. ... We 
have only one resource to make him listen to reason. 
He will have to hear our complaints because this 
;. time we will act. The futxxre depends on him and on 
{ him alone; one word, only one word, and the move- 
v-^ ments which we are about to xuileash will stop im- 
,V' mediately I if not. . . the strike. ... It will be 
total, resolute, firm, disciplined. 55 

On July 27 thousands of demonstrators marched through the 
streets of Brussels singing La MarsejLllaise and L* Inter- 
nationale and chanting "Leopold to the gallows!" "Abdi- 
cationi" One-half block from the doors of Parliament, 
at the corner of rue Royale and rue de la Loi, Spaak 
Joined the agitators and led them to the palace at Laeken. 
There pro-Leopold demonstrators met anti-Leopold groups 
and shouts of "Long Live Leopold" "Down with Leopold" "To 
Moscow" "Incivique" mingled with each other. That same 
day the F.G.T.B. sent a letter to Prime Minister 
Duvieusart announcing the first strikes which would gradu- 
ally spread and paralyze the entire national economy. ^. 
The next day, July 28, there were approximately 500,000 / 
strikers in Wallonia. The trains leaving Belgium were held 
up at the frontier, and highways were impassable aft^p 
strikers had covered them with nails. By July 30 the \, w. ■ 
strikes were almost total throughout Wallonia, and in 
flinders, the port of Antwerp could no longer operate. 
Barricades were built in the streets of Liege, and at , . 

^^ Ibid .. July 26, 1950, p. 1. 

it.'r ■ . 


Grace Berleur, near Liege, three Socialist manifestors 
were killed by the police. In the capital, insurgent 
atriJkers controlled half the railroad stations, and .-, ;/, 
transportation within the city was at a standstill. Vio- 
lence broke out between the tramway workers belonging to 
the nonstriking Catholic union and those of the striking 
Socialist union. From France trade unionists came across 
the border illegally to aid their Belgian brothers, and by 
July 31, 100,000 demcmstrators had started to march on : ^^ 
Brussels. The roadblocks which were set up on and around 
the plains of Waterloo were ineffective, and the d«mon-.j, . 
strators infiltrated by the thousands into the capital. 1 
Belgiiim was poised on the edge of civil war. 
, r -,. ; On July 30 the National Confederation of Political 
Prisoners and their Descendants (no more unbiased and a- 
political group could be found in Belgivim) called a meeting 
to which were invited the leaders of the three major po- 
litical parties. All agreed. Including the delegates from 
the P.S.C., that abdication was the only solution if 
Belgivim was not to be torn apart by revolution. A dele- 
gation was sent to Leopold and was received by him at 
one a.m. July 31. At 2 a.m. a cabinet meeting was called 
which lasted until 7:30 a.m. The remainder of the day 
was spent in conferences between the Government and the 
leaders of the three major political parties and finally 
between the Government and the King, his secretary and his 


personal secretariat. At 6 p.m. July 31 Leopold agreed 
to abdicate, but the conmunication annotmcing his decision 
vras delayed until the following morning. During the ni^t 

■ Leopold had misgivings. He had agreed earlier to delegate 
power to Prince Baudouin who would ascend the throne es 
King automatically on September 7, 1951, on hte twenty-first 
birthday, Leopold sought one last time to reserve to him- 
self the ri^t to decide, in consultation with his minis- 

f ters, \»Aen the delegation of power to Baudouin should come 
to an end. His attempt failed, and at 6th5 a.m. August 1, 
1950, the Minister of Public Education read the message of 
abdication to the press. On August 3 the abdication was 
submitted to Parliament, and on August 11, I95O Prince 
Baudouin now Prince Royal took the oath of office as pre* 
scribed by Article 80 of the Constitution. .••>' .^. ►» 

1' : 

,t>;--i^-, ,-;■ 

> • ji- :^ 

•■■ -/ '/J ■'■ 

»;;.».. — 


rVr- :'■■'■■ ■ SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS ■•^\- ' >#-A' ^- 

The royal question left bitterness not only among 
the Belgian people but also in the young Prince who had 
become a king in spite of himself. Among the people, 
the bitterness was not simply between the Flemings on the 
one hand and the Walloons and citizens of Brussels on the 
other* In the capital and in each of the provinces there 
were Catholics, Socialists, and Liberals on both sides of 
the question, and divisions could be found even within 
families. The Belgians say that the royal question was to 
Belgiiom what the Dreyfus case was to France, and they tell 
of fathers who refused to speak to sons, and brothers who 
became estranged because of their attitudes toward Leopold. 

The Prince, in 1950 a twenty-year-old man who had 
known only imprisonment and exile since he was ten, felt 
hatred toward those Belgians who had repudiated his father 
*nd who had turned so venomously against the Princess 
Liliane whom he loved as his mother. The years of con- 
finement and exile had drawn the royal family closer to- 
gether than possibly it would have been under normal 
circumstances, and the Prince considered himself the 


• 256 

usurper of the place deserved by his father, as a result, 
few changes were made at Laeken follofwing the abdication. 
Ex-King Leopold, his wife, and their family remained in 
the palace, and the young King Qontinu«d to live in the 
quarters which had been his when he was a child. Leopold's 
entourage became Baudouin»s entourage, and for all practical 
purposes, Leopold remained King. During the first years 
of his reign, Baudouin never allowed the people to forget 
this. He insisted that his father accompany him every- 
where, and in all his speeches the first words that 
<■••;■>' ■ ■ ,~'^ ■_■■.,■ 

Baudouin spoke were always in reference to ••my father the 
King.f^ ■.■■■;,..•.,.,, 

There was political estrangement, too, between 
King Baudouin and the leaders of the major political 
parties, but strangely enough, Baudouin vented his spleen 

> not against the Socialists and the Liberals who had led 
the opposition against his father, but against the 

^ Catholics who Baudouin felt had foresaken the ex-King. 
The relationship was friendly between Baudouin and the 
Socialist Achille Van Acker who became Prime Minister in 
1954 and headed the government until 1958. On the other 
hand, Baudouin completely ignored the Catholics and refused 
to receive in audience any member of the P. B.C. However, 
when the Catholic Gaston Eyskens again became Prime Minis- 
ter in 1956, a detente was reached, and the Catholics 

tried to re-establish harmony between the party and the 


"■ :r'';i?s-3'J«3fT' 


•( , 


Sovereign. It is probably because of this that the .::■,.- 
Catholics allowed Baudouin considerable independence of 
action, and the King took full advantage of this gener- 
osity. It must be quickly pointed out, however, that it 
was not tmre generosity on the part of the Government, 
because the latitude allowed Baudouin extended only to 
problems of the Congo, an area where the kings have tra» 
ditionally played a much more significant role than in ^ • 
either domestic or international affairs.^ ., %> 

,:.>' "..> On three occasions after 1953, Baudouin was active 
in Congolese affairs. Following the uprisings in . "" • : 
Leopold ville on January K, 1959, it was the King and not 
the Cabinet who told the country in a radio address on 
January 13 that it would soon have to consider independence 
for the colony. Only a few of the Ministers knew what the 
King would say in his speech, and although'^these few were 
sufficient to take responsibility, it is significant that 
it was Baudouin who first spoke of independence,^ ' 

Before the Congo became a Belgian colony on 
November 15, 1908, it had been the personal possession of 
King Leopold II. He almost forced his huge fief on the 
nation which at that time considered the area, ninety times 
larger than Belgium, to be a costly and troublesome burden. 
The nation left this "linwanted child" partly in the care of 
the Belgian kings. Even when the colony began to reveal 
its enormous wealth this tradition was maintained. 

This was an txnfortunate situation when one 
realizes that after the bloodletting which followed the 
independence of the Congo on June 30, i960, there were many 
Belgians who blamed King Baudouin for his premature be- 

- 258 

Afterward, it was Baudouin who successfully opposed the 
removal of Governor-General Cornells whose policies many 
of the Ministers no longer favored. Finally, the King 
surprised the Government (again, only a few knew of hia 
plans) by flying to the Congo in January, i960, at a time 
when most of the Ministers feared for the King»s safety ; .^ 
should he travel in the colony, and were concerned po- 
litically lest his presence lead to demands which might ■ ' 
worsen the already sensitive relations between the Congo 
and the mother country. The opposition notwithstanding, 
Baudouin insisted that he was insufficiently informed by 
his entourage and wanted to see for himself. ■ . , \ 
\ By the end of the 1950* a the Belgians began to 
realize that Baudouin was becoming a king in his cwn right. 
After almost ten years, it appeared that he was beginning 
to enjoy his role as sovereign and to appreciate the im- 
portance of it. In the relationship between sovereign and 
subjects, the turning point was Baudouin* s trip to the 
United States in May, 1959. The King showed to the 

■ .» 

Americans a side of his personality that the Belgians had 
never seen before. Baudouin laughed in public for the first 
time} he received the press for the first time; for the 
first time he talked to the "man in the street" and moved 
among many levels of society. He danced, went to parties, 
and dated a movie star. He had what appeared to be a 
tremendously good time while at the same time he impressed 


the American people witii his dignity and wisdom. The 
American senators and representatives will probably long 
remember Baudouin»s sobering observation made in a speech 
to a joint session of Congress. In his appeal for world 
peace, he commented that it took twenty years to make a 
man but only twenty seconds to destroy him. •.■■.;,./. \r 

The Belgians were happy about Baudouin's reception 
in the United States, but they also were a bit dismayed. 
Had their King displayed a personality reserved only for 
strangers? Perhaps, as the Belgians came to realize, the 
strangers had been warmer to Baudouin than his people had 
been and he in turn had responded to that warmth. Not to 
be outdone, the Belgians gave the King a frantic welcome 
home. Hundreds of thousands lined the streets of Brussels 
to see him and to cover him with shouts of praise and 
bouquets of flowers. It appeared at last that the bitter- 
ness left by the royal question was beginning to pass, and 
to add to the good feeling, Leopold announced that he, the 
Princess Liliane, and their children were moving from 
Laeken to a chateau on the other side of Brussels. '' ' 
'.';,',■. Anned with the growing good will of his people and 
the sense of authority that his part in the Congo affair 
had given him, would Baudouin forget the lesson of the 
royal affair? There is evidence that the King would not or 
could not. An incident regarding the King's brother Albert, 
however, showed to what degree the King's will was still 


able to withstand public pressure. In April, 1959, Albert 
became engaged to the Italian Princess Paola Ruffo di 
Calabria and Pope John XXIII agreed to marry them. With- 
out consulting his Ministers the King announced that the 
marriage would take place at St.»» tn the Vatican. 
The Belgians were disappointed. There had been no royal 
spectacle since the marriage of Leopold III to Princess 
Astrld in 1926, and there had been no gaiety at Laeken 
since her death in 1935* Now, the people were to be de- 
prived of this wedding. The Socialists took up the oppo- 
sition and gave it a constitutional basis. Belgian law 
reqtiires that the civil marriage ceremony precede the 
religious, but since there was no civil law in the Vatican, 
the marriage would be imperfect under Belgian law. The 
Vatican answered that Vatican City was also a state and 
that consequently the marriage would carry civil sanctlonii 
but the Socialists were not convinced and refused to re- 
consider. At this point, June, 1959 » the Vatican resolved 
what threatened to become another impasse between clericals 
and anticlericals by withdrawing its invitation. King 
Baudouln argued no further and announced that the ceremony 
would be performed in Brussels. ^^This was a minor issue 
but one which clearly demonstrated the nature of the • 
relationship between sovereign and government^J^ 

%V'i^ ■■. '^^^ royal question confirmed once and for all the 
principle that the king reigns but does not rule. Except 

in those ereas in which tho king is granted or allowed a 
degree of independent action, he has only three rights! 
the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, and the 
right to warn. If, in the execution of these rights, he 
is opposed by his government, ha must give way to it. Re- 
garding the Belgian king's right personally to command hie 
troops in battle, a commission appointed by the Ministry 
of Justice reported in July, 1949 » that this would never 
happen again because of the nature of modern warfare J 
future wars would be waged by experts not by executives* 
Only in dealing with the Congo did the king retain after 
1950 discretion which could lead to conflict, but as this 
study is being completed in the summer of I96O, the Congo 
has already become an independent nation. Consequently 
there is now no area of traditional discretion open to the 
Belgian king, and he reigns today under the Constitutiwa 
as interpreted in the light of the outcome of the royal 
question. It is significant that the Constitution remains 
exactly as it was before the royal affair. There have been 
no amendments to codify any particular alteration in the 
power of the king. The change has come about by means of 
a political process which sanctioned the evolved custom. 
With the Constitution unchanged, the area in which the 
King could use his authority remains as broad as ever, but 
because nothing has been specifically limited, everything 
has been tacitly circumscribed. This sophisticated result 

, , [,^:. ,..:,■ :'k . • -■ 26a 

was not deliberately planned, but thlis is the situation 
as It exists today. ■• • ■ '•. .*.', . :, •' ,■•... /.■/•,;' ■ 
.*.!;ii.';;' vi Ij^ the first chapter of this study, the author •>,,,, 
wrote that a strong kljig wag needed to unify the Belgian 
.people, yet today the power of the kins has been greatly 
weakened. Does this mean that national unity will suffer 
as a result? Such a development vgeema unlikely. Fortu- 
nately, the internal factors which have contributed to / , 
disunity have lost strength in the past few years. In -5: ■ 
I95d the major political parties agreed on a paqt ^colaj ^ rg ^ 
which settled for the next twelve years the dispute over 
the problem of state aid to Catholic schools.^ The 
' bitterness over the royal question becomes milder as the 

years pass and Baudouin gains the deeper affection of his 
:; people. Moreover, international affairs are contributing 
'/ to a sense of national unity • Incivisma appears less im- 
portant today when the former great antagonists. Franca . 
'. and Germany, seek a rappr ochemenb « The Belgian people will 
v. be forced to rally all their strength as they seek to ad- 
.; Just to the loss of the Congo. They can no longer afford 

to let petty internal division sap the energy which must 
i be centered elsewhere, particularly on economic survival, 
^i Finally, Belgium* s role in the vanguard of the "new Europe," 

^Signed on November 6, 1953, and ratified by the 

House of Representatives on May 6, 1959* ' • 

■.Y''-v ■'-■■'■-'r^:'n^f"'''^-^v'.~ 



her hope that the economic or2:?nizations of which she is 
now an enthusiastic menber (e.g., the European Coal and 
Steel Community, Euratom, and the European Economic .> ■: 
Community) will lead to a political federation of Western 
Europe, is forcing upon her a reappraisal of her own dis- 
unity. Belgians cannot expect to live comfortably with 
their neighbors if they cannot live comfortably with each 

other. ...',: • )■:•.".: . -,^. i, -:_•.■;. ;,■ ,^ . . 

■ . " ■■ ^"' " 

, , ; ^ r,;;^- Will the monarchy become unnecessary as the ' ' v 

Belgians draw closer together? Closeness does not elimi- 
nate difference; it only alters the mentality in which 
that difference is accepted. Belgium remains divided into 
two proud groups, neither of which by itself is Belgium. 
The phenomenon of national unity manifests itself solely 
in the person of the king. With national unity the king 
becomes the symbol of mutixal pride which draws th^ Walloons 
and the Flemings together and ceases to be the symbol and 
the referee of the antagonisms which have historically 
pulled them apart. ., , ,. 

»^ If we accept Ernest Barker's definition that de- 
mocracy is not a solution but a means of seeking a : --/, 
solution, a means of nonviolent choice between alterna- 
tives, then the ultimate resolution of the royal question 
was not in the spirit of democracy. , . - > • , 

' ^Ernest Barker, Principles of Social and Political 
Theory (Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1951), p. 20?. 


The end was democratic because it removed power from the 
hands of one and distributed it more equally into the . ' = '. 
hands of several, yet the means used were not democratic 
if we are willing to agree that revolution, including J.;. 
civil war, is not the ultimate alternative in the game of 
democratic politics. However, if one of the parties in 
the game of democratic politics, even if that party repre- 
sents the majority, is so unwilling to compromise and 
flaunts the rules which protect the minority, does not 
that minority have the right to resist, and if pushed to 
the limit, to rebel? An affirmative answer may be given 
if the minority fears that its existence as a minority is 
threatened by the action of the majority, or if the "rules 
of the game" itself are being altered by the majority :^: 
without the consent of the minority. 

At the time when the royal question came to a ' :• 
head, the minority— composed of Socialists, Liberals, and 
Communists, but represented primarily by the Socialists- 
feared that both these possibilities would become actu- 
alities. The consultation of January, 1950, had shown 
that the anti-Leopold bloc was in the minority but only 
by a small percentage, and the elections of June, 1950, 
were won by the Catholic pro-Leopold forces by a popular 
vote of only k7 per cent, yet a percentage which gave them 
an absolute majority in Parliament. Thus the Left anti- 
Leopold bloc feared that if the Catholics, who were 


primarily Flemish, carried the day in regard to the royal 
question this would set a precedent whereby a mere ma- 
jority could always govern. With Flanders containing the 
majority of Belgians, the Walloons feared for their po- 
litical life. 

-:% At the same time a solution of the royal question 
favorable to Leopold would have changed the "rules of the 
game" of the Belgian monarchy as it had come gradually to 
be modified since I63O under the influence of universal 
suffrage and responsible political parties. While a pro- 
Leopold solution of the royal question would not have in- 
volved any direct modification of the Constitution, 
Leopold's return would have declared that under the Consti- 
tution a king could espouse and follow a policy which had 
been rejected by responsible ministers. If Parliajnent 
could not decide between king and cabinet the final voice 
would always be that of Parliament and ultimately that of 
the people. Nevertheless, the workings of a modern consti- 
tutional monarchy would have been seriously threatened 
irrespective of who had the final voice. The Socialists, 
who had for years been seeking to reduce the King to a 
figurehead could not have tolerated such a solution, and 
the Catholics acted in complete disregard for historical 
change and commonly accepted "rules of the game" by in- 
sisting on such a solution. .. 
Why had the major antagonists reached such an 



impasse by mid summer of I95O? The answer to this 
question, the reader should recall, has been suggested in 
Chapter One. A modern constitutional monarch is the em- 
bodiment of historical continuity and national self- 
identification, but he ftmctions successfully in this 
capacity only if there already exists a tradition common 
to each of his subjects and the people, of which he is 
the reflection, are whole and able to be mirrored in a 
single, undistorted image. The monarch , in other word;^ . 
is the result . not the cause of homogeneity and consensus . 
The question of consensus is at the center of the royal 
question. For the average Belgian, the royal question 
focused all the other issues over which there was lack of 
consensus in Belgian society—the ethnic, linguistic, 
geographic, religious, and economic issues discussed in 
earlier chapters. In short, the royal question displayed 
the lack of what Herbert Spiro calls "substantive con- 
sensus. "^ On the other hand, for the practicing member 
of Parliament, who must compromise in order to keep 
government running, the royal question revealed that the 
necessary parliamentary elements of compromise* what Spiro 
would call the elements of "procedural concensus," were 

Herbert Spiro, Government by Constitution (New 

York: Randon House, 1959) # Chapter 22. 

fy-f.-V, ■■ ^ • - -7-:-' t ■ ■ •. - - '■- ■:^rT-T^:- ■ - - ';^i. 

.'■■ ■ : V, ; <r*-' 


; .1 5 These two elements of consensus, the substantive 
and the procedural, are interrelated in the royal question. 
Those who drew up the Constitution in I83O knew that be- 
cause of disparate and antagonistic elements within Belgian 
society, political agreement would be almost impossible 
over certain sensitive issues, and no procedural cfflisensus 
in Parliament based exclusively on a free acceptance of . 
the "rules of the game" would be sufficient to couat«r- . 
balance this lack of substantive consensus within society 

'. itself. As a substitute both for the lack of substantive 
CQnaensus in society and procedural consensus in Parlia- 

: ment the king of the Belgians was given considerable power 
under the Constitution! he thus occupied a unique position. 
Substantively he represented the societal unity which 

' would be nonexistent without him, and procedurally he 
acted with sufficient power to maintain and propel that ., 
imity which he embodied. m , . 

f r.iV.4. ^^® reader saw in earlier chapters that as new 

"• groups began to enter political life, they demanded ao 
increasingly larger share of powei*. This Increase was 
made possible in part by decreasing the power of the king. 
At the same time, however, a weakened king woxxld have to 
be counterbalanced by a stronger legislature. A strong 
legislature under the parliamentary system demands that 
the "rules of the game"— the procedural rules of Parlia- 
ment, particularly the basic rules of discussion and 



compromise— ha firmly entrenched and fully respected. 
But if compromise within Parliament is to be toleratod >■ * 
and respected, the elements of division within society can- 
not be too deep. In speaking of what we would call today 
consensus among the British, Lord Balfour once remarked •-.. 
that the British people were so fiuidsimentally at one -■•..'■ 
that they could safely afford to bicker. This was not 
true of the Belgians in the years which preceded the royal 
question. The historic elements of disunity were main- 
tained, and, if we consider the friction between Walloons 
and Flemings between I92O and I94O, those elements were ' 
strengthened. In short, no change could come about which 
would result in greater procedural consensus in Parlia- ' - 
ment until the substantive elements of consensus within 
society were strengthened. - ■' ,' ..-' ■. 

Given the above considerations, there could be no 
solution short of revolution if ever the conflicting 
elements in Belgian society were unwilling to compromise 
on a particular issue. This is what happened in the royal 
affair. Civil war did not break out only because one 
party gave way before the threat of force by another. Yet 
what did the royal affair prove regarding national con- 
sensus if unity was the result of coercion? It demon- 
strated that force, though it cannot compel consensus, 
can shock a nation into the realization that the only al- 
ternative to fundamental consensus on substantive issues 

if*>^.' • ^ -. - ,-. — -'f». :•- ,".?»'■ i^T.'*;*)**- 

in society, manifested in procedural consensus within 
government. Is a breakdown in the society's governing 
machinery. This is the sarae alternative which presented 
itself to the second Austrian Republic after the Second 
World War. In 1934, because of lack of consensus among 
the ruling elements in Austrian society, the republic was 
dissolved and replaced by a dictatorship. Learning a 
lesson from the destruction of Austrian democracy in 1933- 
3k the historic enemies, the Socialists and the Christian- 
Social Conservatives have ruled in coalition since 1945* 
They have done so not because they trust each other but 
simply because the one will not trust the other to rulm 
alone. Nevertheless, the shock of what happened in 1933"» 
34 has at least produced a going political concern. 
;'<'.;• Two sets of circumstances seam to point to a 
solution of the problem of consensus in the Belgian polity 
and society. There Is, first of all, the realisation of 
how close the country had come to civil war and dis- ■ , . 
integration. Next, there is the evidence on the part of 
the numerical minority of 1950 of how far it is prepared 
to let the other camp proceed with the modification of 
certain "rules of the game." Finally, there are forces 
at work which tend both to unify Belgium internally and 

'1' J 

■ ' -" , ■^- • . 5 

See Alfred Clamant, "The Group Basis of Austrian 
Politics," Journal of Central European Affairs . XVIII, 
No. 11 (July, 1945). 

' . 270 

to Integrate her into a wider European conmimity. Hie 
continued industrialization of Belgium and the general 
modernization of many Western European socities contribute 
to the continued lessening of the traditional ethnic, 
religious, and linguistic cleavages. This has been happei** 
ing in France as well as in Belgium. Furthermore, .., ■: 
Belgitua's enthusiastic participation in common European 
institutions has forced the people, as was pointed out '■■-i 
above, to bury their internal differences and bend their 
efforts to the common European enterprise. • ^' ■ .'-' ''. 
;'■■'* But even without the help of any of these forceg 
and events, the royal question, by forcing Belgians to 
consider the costs of disunity, has caused th«m to clarify 
the limits of agreement and disagreement and has thereby 
strenghthaned the cohesion of Belgian society and stabi- 
lized the political process. '• ' ' -'' • 





Government Documents and Semiofficial Publications 

Almanach Royal . ( official ) Publle depuls 1^40 en exe-. 
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Annales parleroentaires de Belg;iQiie: Chambre des 
gepr^s<^ntants et Senat, "J-?45~19^ Bruxel 
Imprlmerie du »Moniteur Beige*, 1945-1950, 

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. oents Emile Bruylant, S. A,, 1935-1950, f 


Contribution "a I'Stude de la question royale . Sdite 
""! par le Groupement national beige en collaboration 
avec la Centrale beige de Documentation, 
Bruxelles: S, A, Edimco. 2 Vols,, 1946. . - ; . 

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Guide des J-inisteres . Revue de 1* Administration beige, 
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Rapr>ort de la Conmlssion d* Information instltut^e par 

S. M, le Roi Leopold III le 14 .juillet 1946 et 

Note compld mentaire , Luxembourg: JSS^S^erle 
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Rapport fait au nom de la Commission spe^clale sur la Con- 
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Rapport presen te par le Secretariat du Roi sur les 

~ ^v^nements politigues qui on sulvi la liberation 

(mal, 1945-octobre, 1949). Bruxelles: Imprlmerie 
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Rapport de la Commission chargee d^emettre un avle 
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Recueil de Docxtments et Supplement * Etabli par le 
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1937. -- . 

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' ' ' ■ /■ ' 

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; ■:••;. Impriinerie et Publicity du xMarais, 1944. 

V - Pirenne, Henri. Histolre de Bel.g:iaue . Bruxelles: 
H. Lame rt in, I9O9-I926. 6 Vols. 

<'sti'' Ronse, Edmund. Le Proces de Leopold . Gand: Het 

, ;| Volk, 1945. 

Schepers, Robert. Lettre a un ami liberal (apres le 

coup de force) . Bruxelles: Phare-Dlmarche, n.d. 

Simon, A. Chanoine. Le parti catholique belg;e . 

Bruxelles: La Renaissance du Livre, 1958. .. 

Spiro, Herbert J. Governjaent by Constitution . New - 
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Thompson, David. Democracy In France . New York; Oxford 
University Press, 1949. 

Tirtiaux, Albert. La 'Traison* du Roi des Beiges . 
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Vanhaesendonck, Emile. Constitution beige, Textes 
exacts de la Constitution belg;e et de la loT ~ 
provinciale . ^ruxelles: Imprimerie Emile (iuyot , 

Van Kalken, Frans. Histoire de Belgique . Bruxellesr ^ 
Office de Publicite, Anc. Etabliss. J. Lebegue ■ 

et Cie., Editeurs, Society Cooperative, 1944» 

— _— _11_.* Entre deux guerres, Esquisse de la vie 

politique en Belgique de 1918 ^ 1940 * Bruxelles : 
Office de Publicite', Anc. ^Etabliss. J. Lebegue 
et Cie., Editeurs, Societe Cooperative, 1944* 

Van Overstraeten, General. Albert I-Leopold III . i 

Vingt Ans de Politique militalre beige. 1920-1940 . 
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Longmans, Green and Co., 1954* 

Wodon, ^ouis. Consideration sur la separation et la 
delegation des pouvoirs en droit public beige . 
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Wullus-Rudiger, J. Les Origines Internationales du 
Drame Beige de 19 "^ ''~^' 

Vanderlinden, 195 


Le Soir (Independent; however, on the royal question, 
anti-Leopold. The newspaper follows a policy of 
maintaining an open editorial column on page one 
which may be used as a forum for qualified con- 
tributors of any political complexion. ) 

La Libre Belgique (Catholic conservative) 

La Dernlere Heure (Liberal) 

Le Peuple (Socialist) "'V 

Le Drapeau Rouge (Communist) . .•' 


Drame Beige de 1940 . Bruxelles: Editions 1 


Periodical Literature ■' . 

"Apres I'appel du Roi," Le Flambeau . No. 2 (mars- 
avril, 1952), 97-100. ... 

"Au dela de la question royale," Les Cahiers 

sociallstes . ( juillet-ao^lt, 1945), 40-43. _:; 

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"Les Greves politiques a propos de la question royale," 
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(septembre-octobre, 1957), 577-595. 

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L^Actualite politique , (juillet, 1945), 5-15. 

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Alexandre, Jean. "Geographie politique de la Belgiquej 
..'. resultats de la consultation populaire du 12 mars 
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Borremans, Jean. "Comment mener la lutte centre 
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11-14. ■ . 

Dawson, Christopher. "The Tradition of Christian 
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-"STT ■. . , ■ . . - . . •fsri.\ . ,. /', , ^ .' "'■•^.l 



"L» Abdication du Roi," La Revue Genera le 


: DeMan, Henri, "nvinston Churchill et Leopold III," 

'^r■^'■■'■■r Ecrlts de Paris , (avril, 1949), 55-61. 

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■ :'';^' (July, I94d). - . 

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T . . J, ■ • ' ■ . * ' 

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■' ■ •■■■..," - ■*' ■ 

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■ -■■■ 332. ■■-"■■'' 

■ :.' 


<- ,'.•■;■ 

■ ■'. 



•- \i 


'- .- \ 


, . '-rl 

bei£a. (juillet, 1951), 377-345. 

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beige , (juin, 1946), 137-142.^ '-'^ 


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■ '•-'■• 852. .-. ■ 

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royal," Le Flambeau . No. 2 (mars-avrll, 1950), 
^ 159-200. 

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Le Flambeau . No. 4 (Juillet-aout, 1949), 345-378. 

t . '■ Temmerman, J. A. "Constitutional aspects of the royal 
■''■ cuestion in Belgium," Parliamentary Affairs . 

(Autunm, 1950), 514-520. • ?: - 

ft;^>»" *' Terfve, Jean. "La question royale," Democratie 
*■ • ; nouvelle . (Janvier, 1950), 41-44. 

* "La question royale," Communisme . (decembre, 
1949). 26-30. 

"La question royale," Comrnxxnisme . (max. 

g.^.^.....; 1950), 9-15. 

Testis. "Le nouveau regne," La Revue Qenerale beige . 
(aout, 1951), 505-510. 

Vautier, Marcel. "Droit constltutlonnel. Lettres du 
" "" ' Roi. Article 82 de la Constitution. Impossl- 
- bllite de regner. Comment en determiner la fin. 

Fin de la Regence. Pouvoir des Chambres. 
• "■>,'■ Prlncipes appllcables," Revue de 1* administration 

et du droit admlnistratlf . (1946). 177-187. 

■ i'.ifV<-v- 


Vercruysse, Marcel. "Comment resoudre la question 
^ royale,' La Revue nouvelle . (janvier, 1948), 

Visscher, Paul. 'Le Cabinet du Roi," Annales de 

droit et de sciences politioues . X, No. 40-41, 

Whig. "La question royale," Le Flambeau . No. 4 
{juillet-aout, 1948), 353'^^JW- 

Wodon, Louis. "Du recours pour exces de pouvoir devant 

la Constitution beige,' Bulletin de I'Academie 
•'■'"- f°^^^® ^^ Bel^ique. 3e Serie, XXIV (deceinbre 5, 
.193^;, 519-550. . , , 

"Sur le role du Roi comme Chef de l»Etat 

dans les cas de defaillances const itutionnelles, " 
Bulletin de I'Academie Rovale de Belgioue . Se 
6^rie, XXVit, (1941)7207-219. ^^ 

IXX, "Le Congres national et I'inviolabilite du Roi,'» 
... ■ / La Revue nouvelle . (ciai, 1949), 46O-465. 

Zeeland, Paul van.^ "En monarchie constitutionnelle, " 
!:^,^^gyH^ Generale beige , (octobre, 1947), 
8-I-8O9. ... ,. ^^ 

In addition to printed material found in Belgian 

libraries, this study is documented with material 
gathered during formal interviews and informal 
conversations. The author was in Belgium from 
September, 1958, until December, 1959. 



^ . , .„_«•,-.._• *^^ 

Ergasto Ramon Arango was born in Tampa, Florida 
on August 20, I929. He attended Tampa public primary 
schools but began high school at the American Foundation '"'r^ 
in Mexico City, Mexico. After a year there, he returned 
to the United States and entered Jesuit High School from 
which he graduated in June, 1947* Four years later he 
received with honors a Bachelor of Science degree in 
Economic Geography from the University of Florida. From 
1952 until 1954 he worked toward a Master's degree in 
International Affairs at the School of International 
Affairs, Columbia University. During those two years he 
was an editor of the Journal of International Affairs. 
He received his Master's in June, 1954. In 1956 he re- :\^v'J 
entered the University of Florida to begin work toward 
the Ph.D. in political science with a minor in histoiry. 
He later went to Belgium on a Fulbright grant and stayed 
there from September, 1958 until December, 1959* In 
September, 19^0, he began to teach at Texas Agricultural 
and Mechanical College, College Station, Texas. 

His honorary fraternities are Phi Eta Sigma, Sigma 
Delta Pi, Beta Gamma Sigma, Pi Sigma Alpha, and Phi Kappa 
Phi. His social fraternity, Delta Chi, 




;i^^/. ■'- ■. , 283 

^'6 ' 

This dissertation was prepared under the direction 
of the chairman et the candidate's supervisory committee 
and has been approved by all members of that committee. • 
It was submitted to the Dean of the College of Arts and 
Sciences and to the Graduate Council, and was approved as 
partial fulfillment of the requirements fpr the degree of 
Doctor of Philosophy.' • - ....-'. 

January, I96I 

' ■■.;*»> 

Dean, College of Arts ^ /<5ciences 

Dean, Graduate School 

Supervisory Committee t 


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